Parking issues – past, present & future

11 01 2010

Issues relating to where and when it is safe and appropriate to park a private car are almost as old as the car itself. The topic was originally covered by a paragraph (now several paragraphs:- 137 to 146) in the earliest Highway Code. However, it wasn’t until the latter half of the 20th century, following the Second World War, as wealth began to steadily increase and the cost of mass produced cars became more affordable, that the problem was given more attention. Where demand has exceeded capacity, the relevant Authorities have always tried to address the problem (both from a safety and congestion perspective). The overall philosophy of solving these problems, however, has changed radically in the past 20 years, as it has done in many other Planning and Engineering sectors. Consequently, policy directions from central down to local Government have changed.

Policy has changed from predicting and providing the required spaces for a particular location, to predicting and managing demand, particularly at destinations such as offices and town centres. The major issue, particularly with the latter location, is the conflict between the need to minimise car use (to reduce congestion and its impact on the local environment), whilst maximising the local economy. Local shopkeepers often argue that, when parking restrictions or reduced parking is proposed, they will lose significant trade. Another factor is that local authorities need to obtain income from on- and off-street charges. Parking charges are, for many local authorities, significant sources of revenue, typically the largest income source under ‘Fees and Charges’ which after Council Tax and central government grant is the largest source of funds.

So, how do we find a solution that takes account of all of these issues? The first thing that needs to be done is to provide realistic alternatives to the car. In addition, the correct balance between on- and off-street parking needs to be found. This will depend on local circumstances. Different individual requirements need to be accounted for: able bodied and disabled users, lone women and parents with children, shoppers with bulky goods, short stay and long stay visitors, security and delivery vehicles to name just a few. Long stay visitors should expect to have to walk further to their destination, but pay less on average. Whereas short stay visitors should only have to walk a short distance, but expect to pay more for the privilege.

Getting this right requires, knowledge, skill, experience and judgement plus the ability to liaise between a variety of stakeholders.  If you need help in these matters we would be pleased to assist.

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