Car parking is one of the most common causes of planning disputes, yet it really shouldn’t be. The typical British city has at least three car parking spaces for every car, yet there are always times and locations where there simply aren’t enough spaces to go around. Surely, if the space exists, then the biggest problem is one of the distribution, rather than just supply and demand? There are a number of radical approaches which can be taken in respect of car parking, and as with so many aspects of local transport planning, there is a great deal to learn from the Dutch experience. In city centre locations, San Francisco has very successfully experimented with a variable parking pricing model, yet for most planning schemes, developers have to work within the constraints of the local authority. Unfortunately, this tends to mean that housing is prescribed a fixed level of 2.0 spaces per house (except for apartments and smaller two bedroomed houses, where one parking space per house is more common). The prescription of 2.0 parking spaces per house suits very few people, as households with no cars end up paying for space they don’t need, and households with more than two cars, or who are simply hosting guests, end up with the overflow cars having to park on the pavements, causing a significant degradation of the pedestrian environment.

Where local authorities are able to offer the flexibility, it makes far more sense in denser housing developments to provide some additional car parking in small lots adjacent to groups of units, and then to charge for parking usage on a separate basis. Even though we have long since accepted the principle of paying for extra services when travel with low-cost airlines, we do seem some way off from accepting parking as a separate facility to housing.

Parking consulting services

The same problem that affects residential developments can also be seen in office parks, where local authorities have deliberately pursued policies of limiting the amount of car parking spaces available, in the vain hope that this will encourage travel by the so-called sustainable modes. Yet given these typical constraints, there are still measures that companies can take to make the best use of the car parking space they have available, and to encourage the alternatives where possible.

Cycle parking

Cycle parking is an essential part of parking provision, especially because as many as 14 bicycles can be parked in the same space as one car, and this number can be increased further still with double height cycle parking. I have extensive experience in getting local organisations in Coventry to increase their cycle parking provision, and this includes major brands such as Virgin Trains (Coventry station), Tesco, Staples, Currys PC World and Virgin Active.

Local authorities usually have supplementary planning guidance which specifies minimum numbers for cycle parking, and these may or may not be adequate, depending on the business type and location. It often makes good business sense to provide more than the minimums, because cycle parking is an extremely efficient usage of space.