IT’S a debate which is set to split the city – should congestion charges be brought in on the streets of York?

Every person in the city can now have their say on whether introducing a London-style tax on drivers who want to use their vehicles in the heart of York would prevent our roads becoming choked with gridlock.

A huge public consultation exercise seeking residents’ views on a range of traffic issues – including congestion charging and a levy on workplace parking – has been launched by City of York Council.

But would these measures succeed, or will they simply hit motorists and businesses in the pocket? Today, The Press invites the case for and against congestion charges – now it’s up to you.

Chris Gorman's argument

“If they go ahead, these measures could have a crippling effect on the many small businesses which give York so much of its character and tourist appeal.

“Implemented individually, both a congestion charge and a workplace parking levy would prove highly detrimental to York’s business community. Enforced together, the results could be catastrophic and lead to an exodus of small firms from the city.

“A congestion charge might persuade some commuters to leave the car at home and use public transport. However, it will unfairly penalise the many small firms which have to use vehicles in the course of their work. And with much smaller profit margins than larger companies, many employers would struggle to reimburse shift workers and commuters from the countryside who are unable to use public transport.

“The workplace parking levy proposal is troubling. This is basically a stealth tax on businesses’ own parking spaces – it’s the equivalent of charging people for parking on their driveways – and, again, it would have a disproportionate effect on small firms. As well as stripping even more money from businesses, it could have the knock-on effect of exacerbating parking problems by taking workers’ cars off private car parks and on to residential streets and side roads.

“These proposals couldn’t come at a worse time for smaller firms, which are still struggling with the recession and facing a highly uncertain future.”

* Chris Gorman is a spokesman for the Forum of Private Business, which represents more than 25,000 small businesses across the UK and also acts as a support and lobby group.

Paul Hepworth's argument

“In the long-term, I believe congestion charging in York is something which HAS to happen.

“The city has been at the forefront of staving off gridlock for some years by encouraging things like car-sharing, short-term car hire, Park&Ride services and installing priority measures for public transport.

“We also have the grant from the Department for Transport’s Cycling England offshoot to enable the completion of York’s cycling network.

“So we have led the way on a lot of things and even people who live in the suburbs are now leaving their cars in the garage and travelling into town by other means, which has made a big difference.

“But we still only have finite road space and, as we cannot build ourselves out of congestion, we have to find alternatives to car usage and encourage people to use them.

“Space needs to be freed up for essential road-users and, quite frankly, if there is not enough of a voluntary switch away from short-distance commuting, politicians may have to look at bringing in the stick rather than the carrot.

“There have been problems with polls on this issue in places like Manchester where people have voted with vested interests, but congestion charging can work and has to work. It’s happening in other cities, not just York.

"Not only would I welcome it, I believe it is inevitable that it will be introduced."

* Paul Hepworth is the North Yorkshire spokesman for the national cyclists' organisation CTC.