Accommodating the Car

Providing the appropriate levels of infrastructure for parking relies upon robust and thoughtful design. The aim should be to:

  • prioritise and promote cycling and walking for all ages and a range of physical and mental abilities;
  • achieve a safe and attractive environment which encourages activity; and effectively future-proof current provision in preparation for future changes in technology, car ownership, driving behaviour and so on.

Issues such as site management, deterring crime, active travel modes, car parking are fundamental to good design – and it is necessary to radically rethink the way such issues are dealt with. Solutions to such problems should form a key part of the development concept of any planning proposal.

It can be difficult to provide space for car parking at ground level while still achieving an attractive urban living environment at housing densities greater than 50 dwellings per hectare. In order that public space is not compromised while current parking standards for Essex are applied, well design and innovative parking schemes should be provided, particularly, on schemes of greater density. If the public realm and space behind buildings are cluttered with parked cars, it allows little scope for creating quality space for socialising, play, walking or cycling. Solutions may include underground, underdeck parking, roof top and multi storey car parking.

While new technology such as on-demand or automated vehicles may negate the requirement for parking spaces outside dwellings in future, it is still important to address how parking at the current rate of car ownership can be accommodated successfully into design. Two design solutions are possible: either the demand for parking has to be substantially reduced or cars need to be accommodated in a way that does not compromise the required quality and quantity of public and private space.

Developments located centrally within urban areas clearly benefit from their proximity to jobs, services, cycling routes, public transport and facilities. Successful garden communities can share similar benefits (which are also applicable to large, new developments), whereby self-contained development encompasses both housing and employment. They offer a lifestyle non-reliant on car use, which is increasingly important for older and less mobile members of the community.

Current issues pertaining to an ageing, often unhealthy population reliant on the car results in high demands on the existing road network, so there is a clear need to encourage more people to travel sustainably. However, the current reality is that people often use private cars to travel. Many facilities and employment areas are located on the edge of settlements or in relatively inaccessible places where public transport services can be poor.

Sustainable communities are dependent upon creating a balance within the population – a balance that includes families, the young and old, and people of a range of physical and mental abilities. The conditions required to make this possible are complex and numerous, but there is currently a clear tension between nurturing this aspiration and restricting private car parking – particularly when considering the needs of the ageing population and those with mobility restrictions.

Proposals with reduced parking can be acceptable in sustainable locations. However the proposal should clearly demonstrate how parking will be managed across a wider area, so that parking inappropriate parking on local streets  does not occur. It should also demonstrate that alternatives to car travel are viable and practical. Such proposals should be discussed with neighbouring communities.

Design and Layout

As well as providing an appropriate level of car parking, it is important that new or extended developments incorporate good design for the layout, landscaping and lighting of parking. This should be user-friendly and should not interfere with the public highway or access adjacent to the parking area. Further advice can be sought from the British Parking Association.


Page updated: 31/01/2018

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