5C) Cars

While having access to a car may be good for our quality of life, so is driving less. As described in Theme 5a, there is much that we can do to encourage walking and cycling as an alternative. Eventually this will lead to lower levels of car ownership, but as a starting point we should aim for lower car use, which still leaves us with the matter of parking.

Parking

The parking of cars can come to dominate housing areas, particularly in new development when the planners impose high parking requirements. The logic in
the past has been; ‘the occupants of this house could own X cars and so every house must have X dedicated car parking spaces’. Research by URBED looking at 400 largely suburban new housing schemes in Kent showed that the average number of parking spaces per unit was just over 2, while the average level of car ownership was just under 1.5 cars per household, and yet most of the residents surveyed on the estates still saw parking as their biggest problem. The suggested solution was to provide fewer spaces but to make them unallocated so that they could be used more flexibly.

The location of parking is also an important issue. The options are: on-plot (at the
front or side of the house); on-street; or in a communal facility like a basement, a courtyard or ‘parking barn’. In suburban layouts, it is easy enough to accommodate parking on-plot, although these spaces cannot be used flexibly and take up valuable garden space. For high-density housing, a communal provision such as basement parking can work well, provided it is secure.

It is mid-density, terraced housing where parking can be a real problem. Parking
in the front garden means you have to squeeze past the car to get to your house. Communal parking courtyards can work but raise problems of security, particularly when there is no direct access from the back garden. So, while it is understandable to want to remove on-street parking to allow streets to be used for other activities such as play, sometimes the street is the most flexible parking option. However, on-street parking should always be in defined parking bays and can be mixed with street trees and cycle parking.

What You Can Do

Communities

Work with the council to manage parking locally. Maybe take out spaces to provide a seating area or cycle store.

Developers and Designers

Don’t provide more parking than you need to and ensure that as much as possible is unallocated. Design this parking to be as unobtrusive as possible, placing it for example towards the rear of commercial sites. Include on-street parking bays in new streets interspersed with street trees and other landscape features.

Councils

Consider your parking standards and guidelines: are they too high and how can they best be applied? Encourage more parking to be unallocated.

Case study

5C) Icon + Houndwood Street, Somerset

The Icon neighbourhood is built on the original Clarks shoe factory site in Street, a Victorian industrial market town of 11,100 residents. The scheme accepts that many people need to use cars – particularly in a semi- rural location – but aims to integrate car parking in a more sensitive manner, creating a ‘shared space’ environment that provides equal rights for cars, pedestrians and cyclists.

The site comprises a mix of 400 apartments, mews houses and terraced houses near the town centre.

Public squares, housing squares, boulevards, streets, mews and ‘garden streets’ are laid out in a hierarchy to manage traffic speed. Boulevards traverse the scheme from north to south, with perpendicular residential terraces creating a permeable grid structure. Footpaths and cycleways weave a separate route through the neighbourhood and link the site to existing local facilities and public transport nodes.

Parking is accommodated in a variety of formats. All houses feature a garage space, well concealed by timber doors, which reflect the timber cladding of the rest of the house.

Timber decks sit above the garage, which – in addition to small back gardens – provides outdoor space on both the front and rear of the properties.

In addition, the scheme provides remote parking courts along boundaries and to the rear of some properties. On-street parking is provided on some roads, but street trees and planters help to lessen the presence of cars. Inevitably there are areas where the parking strategy has been more successfully implemented than others, and some residents choose to park in undesignated areas; however, overall, the balance between cars and pedestrians is well balanced.

The high-density design enables 40% of the site to remain as ‘public space’, the result of a thorough public consultation exercise to ensure the existing community would CARS also benefit from the new development.

This includes a central 600m sustainable reed bed drainage system, a village green, pocket parks, productive orchards and herb gardens, street planters and benches, and sculptures such as an iconic topiary giraffe.

Photography: ©Tim Crocker / Landscape: Grant Associates, Architecture: FCB