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Why local authorities need to re-assess parking policy now!

Alice Roberts
Will Petty
By Alice Roberts & Will Petty
25th January 2022

We are calling on all London boroughs to re-assess their parking policy now, using our new Parking Action Tool – updated and relaunched in May 2023 with our partners Possible and Living Streets.

Parking policy is key to combatting the climate crisis, improving air quality, promoting active, shared and sustainable travel, making transport more accessible, and delivering safe and attractive streets. It is one of the most effective tools local authorities can use to reduce car use and ownership and is about much more than just providing parking spaces. Have a look at Parking policy-why it needs to change March 2024 update which has lots of photos to show what a difference parking policy can make.

CPRE London’s central interest in parking lies in the amount of space taken up by cars and parking. Cars are hugely inefficient of space: car dominance leads to loss of, and lack of, parks and playspaces within cities, where land is swallowed up by huge amounts of ‘grey space’ given to roads and parking; it also leads to environmentally damaging urban sprawl and loss of countryside on the edge of cities. And this is on top of all the other very serious impacts – carbon emissions, air pollution, road danger, noise, inactive lifestyles… which fall on everyone, despite half of London households not having a car.

So we work with others to advocate for compact cities, run on public transport, walking and cycling – with space freed up for more greenery, parks and space to be active, outdoors and in contact with nature.

But not all local authorities are using parking policy to full effect. Borough policies often deal primarily with permits and enforcement even though their role is much wider. Boroughs manage parking as:

  • the local highway and local traffic authority, controlling parking on residential streets and at town centres and other destinations, and responsible for good management of streets and pavements
  • managers of housing estates, able to control residential parking
  • the owner/operator of public car parks
  • the local planning authority, responsible for setting parking levels in new developments; and for front-garden parking
  • a local transport authority with powers to introduce local workplace parking levies
  • employers with workplace parking, able to show leadership by restricting parking in council offices, schools etc.

All aspects of this role should be reflected in parking policy for maximum impact. A good policy should bring these functions together and integrate seamlessly with objectives on environment, transport, public realm and economy.

Ending pavement parking is just one policy advocated in the new Parking Policy Benchmark

So we have created a Parking Policy Benchmark Assessment Tool 2022 designed to enable borough officers, councillors and campaigners to measure how close their local authority has come to creating an effective, joined-up parking policy for the 21st century and identify areas for improvement. Policies are divided into ten areas. For a rating of ‘Good’ in an area, a parking plan must contain all or all but one of the policies listed. Half of the policies or more equals a rating of ‘Needs improvement’, and fewer than half equals a rating of ‘Needs urgent action’.

Help and feedback. This benchmark has been written in consultation with sustainable travel organisations and involved assessment of a number of local authority parking policies. It builds on the recommendations of the Centre for London’s Reclaim the kerb: The future of parking and kerbside management in London report of 2020. We are keen to hear your feedback and are happy to answer questions or provide help. Please contact Alice Roberts or Will Petty

With thanks to volunteer Hannah Eldon.

More information and research

Before Controlled Parking – cars are double parked, on pavements and on a corner, restricting access for emergency and utility vehicles and reducing sight lines for pedestrians making it less safe to cross
After introduction of controlled parking – a large number of empty spaces at all times indicates cars previously parked there did not belong to residents. Double yellow lines ensure emergency/utility vehicle access is now clear and pedestrians can cross safely.
ESTATES PARKING – Housing estates are usually treated differently or excluded from parking policy entirely, which often leads to a car-dominated environment; poor use of space which could be used for greenery or playspace; and nuisance parking (e.g. blocking access or parking on pavements)

Problems with FRONT-GARDEN PARKING: (1) Drivers can avoid parking controls / costs (2) Crossing the pavement causes danger (3) With bigger cars, it is now often causing obstruction (cars don’t fit so sprawl onto the pavement) (4) Pavement crossings have to be installed which makes pavements uneven and harder to navigate for wheelchairs etc (5) Front gardens are paved, so can’t absorb rainwater (6) It’s an eyesore

BUS PRIORITY – Often parking for private cars is given priority over buses. This needs to change. Here are two stretches of the same road: one with space allocated to parking, one with space allocated to a bus lane
Fernbrook Road in London Borough of Lewisham. In the 21st Century we simply cannot sanction the use of pavements to park cars: we need to be encouraging walking, not making it harder.

NEW STREET TREES should be on the road, taking space from parking, not on the pavement where they take space from pedestrians, wheelchairs etc. (We do not advocate removal of trees causing obstacles. Instead, a pavement should be built out into the street around the tree).

PARKING SIGNPOSTS often causes obstacles on the pavement and are an eyesore. They should be placed discretely and in such a way that leaves space for pedestrians and avoids pavement clutter.

EV CHARGING POINTS should be placed on the road, taking space from parking, not on the pavement where they take space from pedestrians, wheelchairs etc.