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New research published by the British Property Federation will add fuel to business concerns over government polici...
New research published by the British Property Federation will add fuel to business concerns over government policies which increasingly restrict the amount of business car parking permitted with new development. The research also throws doubt on the effectiveness of the proposal in the Integrated Transport White Paper to levy charges on workplace car parking spaces as a way of reducing car travel. A survey of local authorities in England conducted as part of the research confirmed there is a clear trend towards reducing permitted levels of private non-residential parking in response Planning Policy Guidance Note 13 (Transport), issued in 1994.

The research report, 'Business Car Parking Standards: The Effect of PPG13', compiled by transport consultants Symonds Travers Morgan for the BPF, found that transport accessibility is a prime consideration for business in deciding where to locate. Parking provision is vital if good public transport access is not available. Reducing parking standards without taking account of public transport accessibility has a major adverse impact on business efficiency and viability. Over two-thirds of the businesses interviewed for the study had abandoned a site because of insufficient parking (whether leaving an existing site or rejecting a new site).

However, fewer than half (46%) of the authorities who expected to tighten their parking standards in the near future had carried out a public transport accessibility analysis, as advised in PPG13. Many of these authorities also said that they had a policy of encouraging business development in their planning area. 48% of all the authorities which responded to the surveywere in the process of reviewing their parking standards, and all those who expressed a view on the likely new standard expected it to be more restrictive than the current one.

The most restrictive standards are to be found in London. However, in some outer London boroughs, the standards currently applied are almost ten times as generous as recommended by the government's Regional Planning Guidance. A number of local authorities expressed fears that if the Government Office for London insists on compliance with the RPG standards, the economic viability of their area will be damaged, as business occupiers are drawn towards those boroughs with better public transport access. At present, two out of three people in outer London drive to work: RPG standards require only one parking space to be provided for every 15-30 workers.

Richard Lambert, BPF Director (Planning & Residential) said:

'The clear message which comes out of this report is that transport accessibility is crucial to the efficiency and viability of business. Good public transport provision needs to be in place before parking standards are reduced in any given locality. Planning guidance must establish a clear link between low car parking ratios and good public transport accessibility. Tighter parking restrictions have already forced businesses to think harder about transport matters when deciding on whether to move, and the government must take account of the fact that many seem prepared to forego the wider economic benefits of relocating if it makes access more difficult.

Local authorities nationwide need to adopt a more consistent approach towards parking standards, and must be aware of public transport provision when they review their standards if they want to avoid compromising their attractiveness as a business location. Otherwise, we might see authorities adopting a beggar-my-neighbour approach, setting their standards with an eye to increasing their own desirability as a business location.

Transport nodality will become increasingly important to locational decisions. These nodal points will be relatively few in number, and there will be limited prospects for flexible transport arrangements beyond them. The risk is that tightening parking standards will create a form of social exclusion for non-nodal areas by damaging their local economies, and forcing their populations to travel further to work or shop.

The report's findings support the BPF's view that charging for using cars rather than parking them is more likely to affect behaviour.'


1. The BPF research report 'Business Parking Standards: The Effect of PPG13' is free to BPF members;£15 to non-members).

2. Symonds Travers Morgan carried out a two-part study:

- a survey of Use Class B1 parking standards operated by each local planning authority in England (to which 80% responded)

- a series of interviews with senior managers in major companies which are directly involved in selecting business locations

3. The British Property Federation is the trade association of the property industry, representing owners and investors in commercial and residential property. The federation's role and purpose is to assist its members in their aim to sustain and expand their businesses. Members will seek to work in a spirit of partnership with occupiers to meet their requirements and add value to their businesses. Also, they will give consideration to the needs of other interests including those of investors, the community at large, people working in the industry, its suppliers and the preservation of a sustainable environment.

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