London boroughs failing to use their "most effective tool” to reduce carbon emissions and pollution - and it's free.
We are calling on London boroughs to re-assess their parking policy as we launch a new Parking Policy Benchmark Assessment Tool designed to enable boroughs to identify areas for improvement. Most London councils are nowhere near making best use of their parking powers .
Alice Roberts of CPRE London said: “After a preliminary assessment of a sample of borough policies, we noticed very low ambition in using parking policy to tackle serious issues like climate change and air pollution, so we decided to try to raise the bar by creating a benchmark, which we have done in consultation with sustainable travel organisations.
“Parking policy is one of the most effective tools local authorities can use to reduce car trips  and so combat the climate crisis, improve air quality and promote walking, cycling and public transport. And it basically pays for itself. But in the majority of boroughs, parking is largely unrestricted so many more trips are made by car than need to be.
Proportion of streets without controlled parking in each borough
“A good parking policy can also free up much-needed space, create a more attractive public realm and even make our streets much safer.
“Among other things, we’re asking councils to introduce more parking charges and controls; ban pavement parking; end front-garden parking; reduce the amount of space given to parking by 10%; and replace parking spaces with parks, play areas, wider pavements, bus and cycle lanes, secure bike storage, parklets, rain gardens and trees.
“In some parts of London fewer than one third of households have a car, so we also think it’s extremely unfair that, for example, people using buses are stuck in congestion because space has been given to parking for private cars instead of a bus lane; or that in places where the vast majority of journeys are made on foot, cars are still allowed to park on the pavement; or that public space is disproportionately allocated to car parking, often for free and usually at well below the cost of renting the land.
“We want boroughs to measure how close they’ve come to creating an effective, joined-up parking policy for the 21st century, and take urgent action where their policy is falling short.”
 As well as controlling street parking, councils have powers to set parking levels in new developments; manage car parking on housing estates, as well as at council buildings, town centres and other destinations; and even charge a levy on workplace parking. A good parking policy should bring all of these functions together, and integrate seamlessly with council objectives on health, the environment, transport, public realm and economy.
 If parking is unrestricted, more people travel by car and fewer people walk, cycle or take public transport. That means more congestion, air pollution, carbon emissions, road danger, inactive lifestyles and noise.
Key information and research
- Parking controls can play an important role in encouraging the shift towards more sustainable modes of transport. (Reclaim the Kerb, Centre for London, 2020).
- Cars are parked 95% of the time. (The High Cost of Free Parking, Donald Shoup)
- On average two thirds of households in Inner London boroughs don’t have a car. In Outer London one third of households don’t have a car. (Table KS404EW, Census 2011)
- It’s around 50 times cheaper to rent a parking space than to rent a home. For example, in Westminster, the space needed for a single parking space would cost £8,000 a year to rent as housing. It costs just £145 to park there for a year. (Why we should be paying more for parking – video explainer, The Guardian)
- There is a clear link between providing parking and resulting car use. (London Plan Evidence Base: Residential Car Parking, 2017
Why Parking Matters (extract from CPRE London 2021 publication Parking Transformed)
- Three quarters of car trips made in London could be made easily by walking, cycling or public transport. Also, only half of London’s households have a car. We believe it is time re-think the space we give to car parking.
- Parking in London takes up a huge 1,400 hectares of land – or ‘greyspace’. That’s the equivalent to 10 Hyde Parks. Parking for private cars is a particularly inefficient use of space which in London is at a premium and much needed for alternative, more useful purposes, such as new parks and housing, wider pavements and cycle lanes.
- London has only two thirds of the greenspace it needs for a population its size so we need to find more space for parks and playgrounds. We also need sites for new homes. And since the coronavirus outbreak, it has emerged that only 36% of London’s pavements are wide enough to observe social distancing – a statistic which highlights a bigger problem, namely that space for car parking is disproportionately allocated when compared to pavement space or space for cycle lanes.
- Parking has a big impact on road safety. Parked vehicles can impact on safety because they make it hard to see oncoming traffic particularly at junctions. This is not just for pedestrians and cyclists: it is also for drivers. Parked vehicles can also block access for emergency services, utilities and other drivers – sometimes called nuisance or inconsiderate parking.
- If parking is unrestricted, more people travel by car and fewer people walk, cycle or take public transport. This means more congestion, air pollution, road danger and noise. But in many London boroughs parking is largely unrestricted and many more trips are made by car than need to be. Depending on how much is available, where it is, and how much it costs, parking can either encourage or discourage people from making ‘switchable’ car journeys – those which could readily be made by walking, cycling or public transport. There is a clear link between the amount of car parking available and resulting car-use so it can have a big impact on the amount of congestion, air pollution, road danger and traffic noise.
- A disproportionate amount of space is given to private cars when compared to the number of trips by public transport, walking or cycling. In areas where the majority of people do not own a car, where street space is limited or the environment is poor, allocating too much space for parking, or providing car owners with private use of public space, particularly for no charge or at low cost, is unfair to residents who do not own a car.
- Action on parking will be needed by the London Boroughs to meet three key targets in the Mayor’s Transport Strategy:
– To increase the trips made by ‘sustainable mode of transport’ (walking, cycling, public transport) from 63% to 80% by 2041
– For everyone to undertake the daily 20 minutes of active travel they need to stay healthy by 2041
– Vision Zero for road danger: the elimination of all deaths and serious injuries on London’s transport system by 2041
Parking detracts from historic settings – making them less attractive
- Removing parking can dramatically improve historic settings and other visitor attractions, encouraging visitors to linger.
- Parking in town centres and high streets reduces income for local business. Although concern is often raised about the impact on local business of removing parking, evidence shows it actually increases income. It does this because it makes spaces more attractive and pedestrian-friendly, less polluted and safer, so people stay longer and spend more. See Living Streets Pedestrian Pound.