England & Wales Transport and infrastructure

Public car parking and local government: key trends and developments

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Summary

This briefing considers the legal and financial constraints under which local authorities operate in providing public car parking and carrying out parking enforcement; covers recent policy changes and developments, including the introduction of the country’s first Workplace Parking Levy, which may affect the approach that local authorities take in providing and regulating parking; and explores broader debates on the role of parking within the government’s narrative and the role of parking in town centre economic performance.

The issue of car parking, particularly in town centres, has risen up the local authority agenda in recent months for a number of reasons. Firstly, the government’s stated priorities of ending the ‘war on motorists’, localising decision-making and cutting red tape have kept parking prominent in the media and produced a number of shifts in planning and other policy which will affect local authorities.

Secondly, the difficult financial circumstances in which local authorities are operating have seen renewed attention given to the revenue-raising aspect of parking provision, most prominently in the City of Westminster, where the council’s changes to parking charges have been shelved amid considerable controversy.

Thirdly, parking has become a touchstone issue in the high profile debate over the economic health of town centres, affected again by government rhetoric but most notably by Mary Portas’ review of the future of the high street, which recommended an expansion of free parking provision in town centres.

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