The car parks with 198 different tariffs! It's the latest war on motorists - ... trends now
Had the Romans faced the same sort of challenges parking their chariots as day-tripper Simona Florea did with her diesel van earlier this week, one wonders if they would have bothered founding Bath in the first place.
Confronted with a giant sign littered with a jumble of words, symbols and numeric charts, the 41-year-old was completely confused and definitely unimpressed.
'It makes no sense to me,' says Mrs Florea, a nurse who was on a sightseeing trip to the city with her delivery-driver husband and four-year-old daughter. 'Our vehicle takes up the same amount of space in the car park as others but we are getting charged different amounts.'
Of course, it wasn't so long ago that all it required to park your car was to find a space and then the right change for the machine. Not any more.
Because across the country a new front has opened in the war against motorists.
Confronted with a giant sign littered with a jumble of words, symbols and numeric charts, visitors to Bath look unimpressed
The new system adopted by Bath and other councils charges motorists on a sliding scale based on their exhaust emissions
Daniel and Simona Florea, from Hereford with daughter Carolina, claimed the system made no sense
Not content with imposing charges to drive your car into a growing number of city centres, councils are now also targeting certain vehicle owners with increased parking fees, too.
And, worryingly, those in the firing line are often those who can least afford it.
Because the new system adopted by Bath and other councils charges motorists on a sliding scale based on their exhaust emissions, owners of electric cars are charged the least — while the owners of old petrol and diesel cars are hit the hardest.
While in Bath that will see some drivers paying almost 50 per cent, or 80p, more per hour, some London boroughs impose an eye watering £6.50 hourly parking surcharge for diesels.
It's not just what many argue are unfair costs — but its complexity as well. The sliding scale of charges means that, for example, the Bath system now has a mind-boggling 198 separate tariffs covering the council-run car parks.
These cover the length of stay — from one hour to 24 hours — and how much a specific vehicle would pay depending on seven emission bands or, where that information is not available, four engine sizes.
Sundays fees increased from £2.10 to £17
A different fee is charged depending on whether the car is diesel or non-diesel, the latter category covering electric and petrol
Those using Bath's council-owned car parks enter their registration details into one of the ticket machines.
It then calculates the amount the driver needs to pay based on a vehicle's carbon dioxide emissions, in line with records held by the DVLA and used for road tax purposes.
Where no emissions rating is available, including all vehicles registered before 2001, the charge is based on engine capacity.
Anyone wanting to know in advance what they will pay would have to use their smartphone to scan a QR code on the car park's sign that then links to a series of four different tables on the council's website.
Councils — almost all of which are Labour or Liberal Democrat — claim the goal of all this categorising is to improve air quality.
Councils — almost all of which are Labour or Liberal Democrat — claim the goal of all this categorising is to improve air quality
Where no emissions rating is available, including all vehicles registered before 2001, the charge is based on engine capacity
Similarly perturbed was accountant Katie Dobson who was on holiday from Sheffield with her husband and two children, having travelled in her petrol two-litre Seat Tarraco
'The new charges aim to incentivise motorists with more polluting vehicles to use more sustainable alternatives when visiting the city centre, like Park and Ride, and encourage a shift to public transport, walking, wheeling [covering wheelchair users and those with mobility scooters or rollators] and cycling,' is the way Bath's Lib Dem-run council puts it.
But critics claim it represents a stealth tax which threatens to drive people away from towns and cities where businesses are already struggling because of lack of footfall.
Winchester City Council recently introduced a seven-fold increase in its Sunday parking charges on the basis that 'air quality doesn't care what day of the week it is'.
Outraged residents accused them of acting like a 'Soviet politburo' while killing off trade and deterring church-goers, forcing council bosses into a screeching U-turn.
There's no sign of that in Bath, where this week visitors such as Mrs Florea and her husband Daniel were struggling to get to grips with the new system. 'I've never seen this anywhere else, but I saw the sign which told me I might be charged more,' he says. 'I put my registration number into the machine but I'm not sure whether I have or haven't been charged more. Either way, I'm not happy about it.'
A stealth tax that drives people
Similarly perturbed was accountant Katie Dobson who was on holiday from Sheffield with her husband and two children, having travelled in her petrol two-litre Seat Tarraco.
'The charge was a bit of a surprise,' the 46-year-old says. 'It's another tax on motorists.
'There are some people who have no choice but to have the car they've got even if it does have higher emissions. They can't afford to change it.' It's a point echoed by Hugh Bladon of the Alliance of British Drivers.
'Very often the cars they are penalising are older cars that the population who are less well-off can't afford to replace,' he says. 'So what they are doing is penalising the poorest people in society.
'Councils all over the country are desperate for money and they have got a hatred for anything to do with cars, so they regard them as an easy target. But the more they do this the more they will kill the centres of cities and towns.
'If I had a business in Bath I know what I would do — I would move it out of there as fast as possible.'
Signage at this car park previously showed 130 possible tariffs available to motorists, prompting ridicule online after radio host Danny Baker highlighted it to his internet followers last year
In the London borough of Lewisham — also Labour — electric vehicles using its Blackheath Grove Car Park have a