Principle 2: Access and Parking

Larger footprint buildings, with the exception of town centre developments, are often located in relatively remote/inaccessible edge of settlement locations and therefore tend to have a high reliance on car use. To reduce the reliance and usage of private cars on site, there are elements which will need to be introduced to encourage more use of alternative forms of transport. This includes the provision of; bus stops, cycle stores and easily accessible, direct pedestrian, cycle routes/access with extra provision for wheelchair users. Combined enhanced access to these forms of transport and infrastructure will start to encourage more people to use public transport, as well as walking/cycling, therefore gradually reducing the high volumes of vehicular traffic.

In terms of public transport accessibility, consideration should be given to how the site can be best served by these modes. This can include ensuring that the development sites are located on bus routes, with bus stops and associated infrastructure either located at the edge of the site with good quality walking routes to the building, or alternatively for much larger sites such as retail parks, internally to the site with an appropriate method of access and egress from the development. 

In the context of a large footprint building, there is likely to be a high volume of vehicular traffic, either HGVs/LGVs or private cars depending upon the use of the building or set of buildings. The requirements for heavy vehicles to enter a site, to make deliveries and to leave a site can have a significant impact on the layout and operational of a development internally, as well as access junctions, street widths etc. its interface with the street and junctions and street widths of surrounding streets. Careful consideration needs to be given to how routes for servicing vehicles are segregated from public access, and where possible vehicle tracking should be used to ensure features such as minimum radii, material treatments and other design enhancements are made to create an environment that isn’t entirely aimed at movement of large vehicles.

The high reliance on vehicular traffic should be mitigated where ever possible, however depending upon the location this may not be feasible and subsequently there is likely to be a significant requirement for adequate parking for vehicles visiting the development.  

Providing the appropriate levels of infrastructure for parking relies upon robust and thoughtful design. According to the Essex Design Guide, 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.

To ensure that the design of parking areas are complementary to, and not detrimental to the overall landscape design of the area surrounding the building(s), well designed and innovative parking schemes should be provided, particularly, on schemes where there are large number of spaces required.  The key points regarding the design of car parking areas include:

  • All forms of parking should be connected to and enabled for smart infrastructure
  • All forms of parking should be futureproofed, allowing for adaptation at a future date

Electric charging points for vehicles should be clearly signed/demarcated and located close to the main entrance for staff/visitors and on appropriate and attractive pedestrian routes. It is recommended that one electric charging space, or provision for future electric charging infrastructure, should be provided for every 10 spaces.

Whilst it is too early to predict changes in car ownership and usage pattern in the future, it is recommended to design with flexibility in mind. Design flexibility can allow a building to evolve over time as the user needs change. The flexibility of a building or elements of its design can allow it to be used efficiently despite changes in transportation requirements, whereas an inflexible building might become out-dated. This allows for the interior or exterior spaces around the commercial/industrial building to be changed in response to certain design elements, such as parking areas, access routes, etc. without the need for new construction. Changes can be both permanent and temporary.

As the desire is to create an attractive pedestrian environment, it is important that public space and pedestrian movement are not affected by large areas of parking. There is a balance to be achieved between designing well thought-out, innovative parking schemes and meeting current parking standards. If the public realm and space behind buildings are dominated by parked cars, it allows little scope for creating a quality place. As well as reducing the parking level at accessible sites, options should be considered for reducing the dominance of vehicles including underground, podium/deck parking, roof top and multi storey car parking. These methods would reduce the visual impact of parked cars and would allow for easier pedestrian movement around a site without having to negate circuitous vehicle routes. Opportunities for dressing podium/multi storey parking edges to replicate the style of the buildings, or through the introduction of public art or green walls, is encouraged.

Another successful method of reducing the extent of parking at large commercial/industrial sites is through shared parking. This is achieved through complementary land uses in adjacent sites sharing their parking lots, thereby reducing the number of spaces required to be provided at individual properties. In terms of the context of larger floor print buildings, parking areas could be used for workers and office use during weekday working hours, and then available for use by residents living in nearby housing developments in the evening, or for commercial development users at weekend when office parking is not required.

Regular landscape breaks should be provided within parking large areas of hardstanding. It is suggested that a landscape break every 10 spaces would be suitable for most developments, to maintain the balance between hard and soft landscaping, and ‘soften’ the feel of what can often be ‘hard’ environments. Effort should be placed into the design and use of the landscaped areas so that they are not solely areas of utility grass, which can often be over-run or poorly maintained, but offer opportunities to enhance biodiversity through the provision of ornamental or wildflower planting, assisting with run-off through appropriate use of rain gardens, and/or planting of small to medium sized tree specimens to assist with providing shade and capturing rainfall. 

When considering tree planting within areas of hardstanding, careful thought should be given to the underground conditions and how to avoid compaction of soil and providing enough space for tree roots to grow adequately. It is recommended that crates are utilised in all areas of tree planting in hardstanding. Consideration should also be given to the future use of the site and whether the trees can be successfully integrated into future use of the site without removal.

Permeable paving provides a stable area of hardstanding where surface water run-off can be reduced, managed, treated or attenuated elsewhere to help reduce the risk of flooding. Permeable paving systems are used extensively for access roads, car parks, coach and bus parks, industrial yards (dependent upon run-off and risk of fuel spillage), HGV surfaces and driveways where a sustainable urban drainage solution is required. This approach should be discussed with Essex County Council’s SuDS team to agree an appropriate treatment.

Management and long-term maintenance of car parking, hard and soft landscaped spaces should be agreed either prior to submission of a full planning application or reserved under condition to ensure the continuing presence and quality of green space within these sites.

Page updated: 11/09/2019

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