A scheme that could triple residents’ parking permit charges for the most-polluting vehicles is not just a revenue-raising exercise, a council has insisted.
Richmond-upon-Thames council in south west London said it hopes other local authorities will introduce similar initiatives.
The Richmond scheme, due to be considered next month, could see the introduction of a sliding scale of charges for permits, with people using electric cars paying nothing.
Those with the most environmentally-unfriendly vehicles such as high-performance cars and 4x4s would find their annual permit charge rising from #100 to #300.
The council said the scheme was all about combating climate change but London Assembly Conservatives said the plans amounted to little more than "a stealth tax".
London Mayor Ken Livingstone, an ardent opponent of the use in the capital of 4x4s – dubbed Chelsea tractors – congratulated Richmond on its stance.
Environment groups such as Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace were also supportive of the Richmond initiative. But both the AA Motoring Trust and the RAC Foundation expressed reservations.
Richmond councillor David Trigg said: "We are the first council in the country to implement a change such as this, and we would certainly hope that others do."
Council leader Serge Lourie said it was vital to start acting at local level to deal with climate change which was "the single greatest challenge facing the world today".
Mr Livingstone, who wants to see congestion charging for gas-guzzling vehicles more than tripled from #8 a day to #25, agreed with Mr Lourie.
"London has established itself as the only major city in the world where people are shifting from cars to public transport, cycling and walking," said the Mayor.
But Tony Arbour, London Assembly Conservative member for South West London, said: "As it stands, this is just another revenue-raising exercise." Paul Watters of the AA Motoring Trust, said: "It is probably stretching what residents’ parking is about too far."
When it began, it was designed to help people who had parking problems near their homes, with money raised used to cover the cost of permits, but now some local authorities were using it to raise revenue, he added.
Sheila Rainger, spokeswoman for the RAC Foundation, said: "We are in favour of encouraging people to choose greener, more efficient cars but we’d much rather see incentives than penalties."
Greenpeace said it welcomed "anything that gets people out of gas-guzzlers and into less polluting cars" while Tony Bosworth, senior transport campaigner for Friends of the Earth, said it was an important step towards helping combat climate change.
Councillor Paul Bettison, chairman of the Local Government Association’s environment board, said: "Local authorities up and down the country will be watching these proposalswith great interest.
"Ultimately, it will be for local authorities to decide."