Within London, parking and kerbside management are largely within the remit of local authorities. There are also around 600 free parking spaces along the Transport for London Road Network, with some trials to introduce parking charges. 41 However, the vast majority of parking and waiting, including loading and deliveries for commercial use, is managed and enforced by local authorities. There are some instances of collaboration and joined-up approaches to kerbside management in the city through bodies such as London Councils and the London Technical Advisers Group (LoTAG). 42 Yet the different characteristics of boroughs mean that their approaches to parking often diverge.
This chapter builds on our interviews with borough parking policy leads to examine some ways in which policies differ and are changing.
Inner London boroughs are more likely to control parking
Boroughs’ approaches are broadly reflective of their different geographies and densities. Typically, inner London boroughs have higher housing densities and a lower proportion of housing with dedicated driveways or other off-street parking. As Figure 4 showed, twothirds of vehicles are parked on-street in inner London, compared to one-third in outer London. This means that inner London boroughs are more likely to use Controlled Parking Zones (CPZs) to designate and manage on-street parking space. Overall, more than three-quarters (77 per cent) of kerb space in inner London is controlled, compared to less than a quarter (24 per cent) in outer London. Only a handful of individual boroughs diverge from this pattern – for example, only 23 per cent of the inner London Borough of Lewisham’s kerb space is controlled, compared to 63 per cent in the outer London Borough of Brent (see Figure 7).
Parking policy as a tool for achieving wider objectives
Historically, boroughs have treated parking provision simply as an amenity for residents; something that the borough has a duty to deliver, like refuse collection, rather than a policy tool to shape places in a broader sense. This has resulted in a traditional organisational split between parking management and /or enforcement teams and wider transport strategy teams.
This is changing. Boroughs have a statutory duty to show that parking controls are proportionate to meeting their stated policy objectives, rather than generating surplus. They also have an obligation to produce local transport strategies demonstrating how they will deliver the strategic objectives of the Mayor’s Transport Strategy, including mode shift targets, Healthy Streets (the Mayor’s approach to designing safe and attractive streets that enable more active travel and public transport), 43 and carbon reduction targets. Approximately two-thirds of the boroughs we interviewed (both inner and outer London) now see parking policy as a tool for managing car ownership and usage and supporting the delivery of healthy, quality public places. Reflecting this shift in priorities, several boroughs explained how their departments had restructured to better integrate parking enforcement and strategic transport planning, rather than continuing with traditional siloed service arrangements.
Case study: Camden Transport Strategy
The most recent Camden Transport Strategy (2019-2041) is an example of how boroughs are embedding parking and kerbside policy as central to their wider transport strategies. The strategy recognises the kerb as a scarce public asset, as well as the role that parking policy can play as an enabler of car ownership and usage and as a barrier to walking and cycling. As such, the strategy commits to a reallocation of kerb space away from parking and to parking policies that are explicitly targeted at mode shift and management of demand. 44
However, changes in parking and wider transport policy are not only coming in response to mayoral transport objectives. Many boroughs are also leading with positive action to address climate change concerns and create a better quality of life for their growing populations. 23 London boroughs have now declared a climate emergency, 45 and a significant majority of the boroughs we interviewed described population growth in their area (and the subsequent need to shift towards sustainable transport) as a driver behind parking and transport policy.
- More than half of all boroughs have introduced graduated emissions-based or engine size-based residential parking permit charging structures, and some have also adopted an additional diesel surcharge to encourage cleaner vehicles. A number of boroughs are currently consulting on (or considering introducing) emissions-based charging.
- Boroughs are increasing the proportion of roads covered by CPZs. While half the boroughs we spoke to will only implement a CPZ if residents request one, the other half are taking a proactive, strategic approach and expanding CPZs to deal with displacement pressures. Some are also reviewing previous zones and dividing them into smaller areas to reduce intra-borough trips.
Other wider transport interventions introduced by some boroughs include:
- Liveable Neighbourhoods (and similar schemes such as Mini-Hollands, Low Traffic Neighbourhoods and Low Emission Neighbourhoods). These usually involve road and public realm improvements, traffic restrictions, new cycling infrastructure and parking, improved crossings and junctions, greening and the redesign of street and town centre areas. Evaluation of the Mini Holland scheme in Waltham Forest, for example, has shown a significant increase in active travel locally as well as reduction in noise, speed and traffic volumes across targeted areas. 46
- School Streets. These involve closing some roads around schools to vehicles during school drop-off and pick-up times (to improve safety and incentivise walking or cycling).
- Play Streets. These involve temporary road closures to traffic (usually for several hours on a specific day) to allow children to play safely.
- Parklets. Parking spaces are turned into public spaces with planters, seating, bike parking and charging stations to allow for social interaction and rest breaks.
- Car free days. These involve closing large areas to motor vehicle traffic for the day.
- Sustainable deliveries. Supporting local businesses to switch to cargo bike deliveries.
- Mass tree planting initiatives.
However, despite a growing ambition to shift towards sustainable transport from even the historically more car-friendly boroughs, interviewees frequently expressed the view that public opinion might differ from that of local authority policy teams. This perception can frustrate attempts to act more strategically with parking controls, given that elected politicians are understandably mindful of their re-election prospects.
One issue is that when boroughs consult on a change – such as the introduction of a CPZ – car owners in the area may see it as a negative measure, as it asks them to apply and pay for permits to use a space that they have hitherto used for free. Residents may also feel that a CPZ would limit their ability to park, when in fact the opposite is true: controlled parking limits the ability of non-resident drivers (or those from nearby car-free developments) to use these spaces. These assumptions result in the consultation attracting negative responses from car-owning residents, while non-car owners largely do not respond. In some inner London wards car ownership is as low as a quarter of all households, so a vocal minority can affect policy direction, while the silent majority’s views are not reflected.