Drivers squeezed as parking space shrinks
The average amount of space for parking in residential areas has shrunk by 9% over the past decade while the number of vehicles has continued to increase.
According to research from LV= car insurance, the average motorist has seen the space available for parking near their home decrease by nearly a metre - from 9.84m per car in 2001 to 8.97m in 2011. The study compared the number of cars on the road with the amount of available parking space in residential areas, both on-road and off-road, over the past 10 years.
There are more cars on the road today than ever before but the space available for parking in residential areas is becoming scarcer. The research found that the number of cars in England has grown by 15% since 2001, yet the space for residential parking has failed to keep pace.
Yet while parking space shrinks, our cars are getting bigger. An analysis of 600 of the most popular UK models show the average new car is now 4.3m. This is 15cm longer than the average length of a car made in 2001. This is putting increasing pressure on drivers to park in tighter spaces, risking damage to their own car and those around them.
Across the UK, London motorists are the most squeezed for parking. Westminster has the smallest amount of parking space, just 4.33m of space per car, which has shrunk by 21% since 2001. Outside of London, Harlow, Broxbourne, Slough, Watford and Stevenage have the least amount of resident parking space per vehicles.
But while motorists are feeling squeezed, local authorities are profiting from the increased demand for parking space by raising the cost of parking for residents. Over a quarter (27%) of councils have increased the cost of residential parking permits since 2008, with 14% increasing prices this year already. Some councils are capitalising on this further by increasing the number of paid parking zones in their area, with one in five (17%) councils doing so in the past 12 months.
Residential parking permits provide a lucrative source of income for local authorities. Close to one in ten (9%) car owners have to pay for the right to park their car outside their home, paying an average of £96 each year for the privilege. The most expensive permits were found in sought-after residential parking areas in Birmingham (£785), Canterbury (£511) and Poole (£440), with residential parking permits netting councils more than £47.8 million in 2011 alone.
Yet many drivers can't get hold of a parking permit at all. Information obtained by a freedom of information request found that eight councils admit residents have had to wait over a year for a parking permit in their area. The worst offender with the lengthiest waiting list is Mid Devon District Council, where one motorist waited 2,920 days (eight years) for a parking permit. Other offenders include Canterbury City Council (2,218 days), Bristol City Council (1,765 days) and Uttlesford District Council (1,335 days).
The long wait for a permit combined with a lack of parking spaces is forcing some drivers to park illegally. One in 10 (11%) drivers say they have been forced to park illegally near their home because there wasn't space for them and around a third of these illegal parkers were fined as a result, paying an average of £92 each in fines.
John O'Roarke, managing director of LV= car insurance, said: "There are more cars than ever on the road today but the space available for parking in residential areas has not kept pace. Motorists are becoming increasingly squeezed when it comes to parking and in some areas the average space available is only a few centimetres longer than the average car. When space is particularly tight, drivers must take greater care when parking to avoid damaging their own car or those around them and risking expensive repairs or a claim against them."