Car parks fuel green drive

A group of large employers are pioneering environmentally friendly benefits as a way to negate parking problems in major cities. Some are specifically ear-marking staff car park cash to help fund a raft of green perks.

The University of Bristol, BskyB and British American Tobacco have all implemented green transport plans to cope with travel issues, including introducing tax-free bicycle loans and promoting company car sharing.

The University of Bristol is using the £220,000 it receives from charging staff to use its 1,070 car parking spaces to introduce tax-free bicycle loans. And it has seen a 12% drop in car park use since it brought in its green transport arrangements. Drivers are now charged on a daily basis rather than annually and a car share database has been introduced to encourage more workers to fit in to less cars.

Jane Lorimer, travel plan co-ordinator, said: "Parking is a scarce resource and a lot of people weren’t happy with the way parking was allocated. We have ring-fenced all of the revenue from car parking and spent that on promoting alternatives to car use."

Lorimer added that the university, which employs 5,000 staff, also spent a substantial sum on secure cycle sheds for staff. "There is quite a high cycle theft in Bristol so if we were to encourage people to ride to work, they need somewhere safe to park their bike."

Media firm BSkyB has recently purchased a new site next to its existing base in Osterley, London. Local government planning requirements forced the company to consider alternative ways for staff to come to work and the company introduced a tax-free bike scheme, through salary sacrifice, to encourage them to cycle.

Dev Raval, head of reward, said: "We’ve acquired a new site and we need to think how we manage transport and parking issues. Parking spaces are restricted so the only thing we can do is manage demand. If you don’t want to drive to work, but want to cycle, we’ll give you a way to get cheap bikes."

The business has offered the arrangement to all of its 11,000 staff along with a childcare voucher plan and a home computing scheme, provided by Grass Roots Group.

British American Tobacco (BAT) has included a bike scheme in its recently re-launched flexible benefits plan. BAT has offered staff the chance to choose the bikes through the employer-paid scheme from July. Malcolm Douglas, remuneration and benefits manager at the tobacco firm, said he expected more staff to cycle to its Southampton base, rather than the London-based headquarters. "In Southampton, where it’s much more a local employer, more people cycling to work would make a real contribution to the site’s car parking problem. There is [also] a cycle path from the city to the factory site."