London drivers underpay councils for residential parking

Centre for London has said that car owners are underpaying for their on-street residential parking space across London, urging councils to act more strategically with parking controls.

The think tank has published a new report, Reclaim the kerb, which reveals that that the annual cost of operating residential parking spaces far outstrips the price that drivers pay for residential permits, with even the most expensive permits falling short.

For example, it costs councils £336 on average to operate a parking space in inner London (compared to average resident permit costs across councils between £51-£230), and £295 in outer London (compared to average permit costs between £29-£154). Instead pay and display, and enforcement charges, subsidise lost revenue from resident permits.

The market value of a residential parking space can be up to 10 times higher than the annual cost of a permit to park on-street. Analysis of JustPark data b y Centre for London found that spaces were being rented out at a yearly average of £2,740 in inner London, and £1,587 in outer London.

Additionally, London boroughs’ reported parking expenditure was found to not reflect the full cost of parking provision. Between 2014/15 and 2018/19, boroughs collectively made an average annual parking surplus of £243 million, but when other costs required to operate Controlled Parking Zones are taken into account, this surplus diminishes significantly and even becomes a loss for four London boroughs. Any surplus is ringfenced by government for transport services, including road maintenance and provisions for disadvantaged groups.

The report calls on councils to act more strategically with parking controls, promote alternatives to car ownership and use, and reallocate parking space to other uses that Londoners prioritise such as cycleways, disabled bays and green space. With more than half of London councils having declared a climate emergency and road transport  contributing over 20 per cent of the city’s emissions, Centre for London argues that the time has come to rethink parking policies and support the shift towards sustainable modes of transport.

It recommends that councils should: set residential permit charges at a level that fully covers operating costs; review the coverage, size and operating hours of Controlled Parking Zones regularly; and move towards an emission-based charging structure for resident permits, and escalate charges for additional vehicles.

Joe Wills, senior researcher at Centre for London said: “Residential parking in the capital is under-priced, while Londoners prioritise green spaces and clutter-free pavements over on-street parking. With a climate emergency on our hands, councils can play an important role in encouraging the shift from car use towards walking, cycling and public transport – and many are already doing good work here.

“There will continue to be a place for private cars in the short and medium term, but what we need now is action. The time is right to rethink the way councils approach parking and reclaim the kerb, accelerating London towards the greener, safer, healthier city that will benefit us all.”