car parking

Drivers need somewhere to park at either end of their journeys.  Whether that be spaces on the street or in car parks, someone has to provide those spaces, and someone has to pay for them.  And if there aren’t enough spaces at any particular time, then cars circulate looking for spaces.  At times up to 30% of traffic in town centres is made up of drivers looking for a space!  Perhaps not surprising when you know that cars are parked for about 95% of the time.


There have been many and various attempts to get parking right.  But in the end it comes down to supply and demand, which in turn comes down to price.  Get the prices right and you can match supply and demand well, and remove nearly all that traffic circulating in search of a space.  The magic figure to aim for is a price that means about 85% of spaces in any car park or bay are available.  This means a driver can turn up with the reasonable expectation of finding a space, provided she is willing to pay the price that has been set which ensures space availability.  Pricing needs to be adjusted up or down every six months or so, to make sure supply and demand are well matched.

Shopping & Leisure

Town centres are diversifying their offer as the retail sector comes under ever increasing pressure from internet sales. High streets have to offer more now than just shopping.  Restaurants, leisure activities and events are all part of the mix to attract people and make the town centre more “sticky”, that is making it an attractive place where people want to spend more time (and money!) socialising.

It’s important that car parks intended for shopping and leisure users are not filled up by commuters parking all day, including shop owners and staff.  Pricing should be set to incentivise short to medium length stays on the 85% occupancy principle, while discouraging long stay commuters by making all day parking expensive.


Commuter parking should also be priced on the 85% principle for all day parking, but the pricing can be adjusted to spread out the “rush hour”, by incentivising early arrival/early departure or late arrival/late departure.  For example an all day ticket that normally costs £10 might be reduced to £6 for entry before 0745 or departure after 1800, depending on payment systems.


If you currently provide free parking for staff who drive, do you offer any travel incentives for other modes of transport, such as subsidised bus travel or high quality cycle parking?  Is it fair to subsidise only one form of travel to work?

On many business parks the roads are clogged with parked cars and vans all day.  Could you get together with other businesses and the district council and figure out how to improve the situation through travel planning?


Every space you provide for a car in a new housing scheme is a cost, not least in land, typically the most costly part of a property. So, providing multiple parking spaces per house, perhaps including garaging, adds hugely to the cost of the houses and/or impacts the viability of developments, perhaps squeezing out more socially desirable investments.

Could you reduce on street and on plot parking by facilitating car club or car share schemes on your development as part of travel planning?  As cars are parked for 95% of the time, the option to have access to a car on a pay as you drive basis will be attractive to many, perhaps instead of a second car.  More so if the land take avoided results in either lower cost houses or additional room space for the house.  It is estimated that each car club car removes 10-20 other cars in the area, as people realise they often don’t need second cars in particular.  Could you negotiate with the planning authority for reduced car parking provision per plot by providing car club options as part of your travel plan?

Making sure prospective purchasers have realistic alternatives to the car is also crucial. It is not sufficient to provide cycleways on your development if they don’t connect to the wider network, to enable travel to the town centre or railway or bus station for example. In your conversations with Highway Authorities at pre-planning, offer to fund off site cycleways so your on-site investment makes sense, rather than the default position of funding road and junction upgrades which will likely make cycling beyond the development less attractive.

While your transport assessment will likely base traffic projections on similar developments elsewhere, does this mean that your travel plan should seek to accommodate that predicted traffic, or should it seek instead to shift expectations in prospective purchasers  minds by ensuring genuine alternatives are in place at first occupation?

There is a shift taking place in thinking on provision for transport for new housing developments, with a move away from traditional predict and provide methodology, usually focused on highway capacity increases aimed at motor traffic, to ‘decide and provide’, where the local authority or community has a different vision of transport, enabling investment in public transport and active travel instead of increasing motor traffic capacity.

Seeking to shift travel behaviours after first occupation is much more difficult, as habits are formed. Moving house requires that new travel habits are formed, so plans should be ambitious in shifting mode choice in the lead up to first occupation by purchasers.