Spaced out: perspectives on parking policy17 Jul 2012

Seven million front gardens disappear to make way for cars

The rise in the number of vehicles and the shortage of parking spaces means millions of front gardens have been paved over to make room for cars.

Figures analysed by the RAC Foundation show around 80% of Britain’s 26 million dwellings were built with a front plot.

Almost a third of these plots have been turned into hardstanding. This means seven million front gardens now contain concrete and cars rather than flowers and grass, a total area roughly equivalent to 100 Hyde Parks or 72 Olympic Parks.

Houses built between 1919 and 1964 are most likely to have a front garden and hence it is these properties that are most likely to have seen the change.

The move to find extra parking space has resulted from the huge rise in car ownership. In 1950, there were two million cars. In 2011, there were 28.5 million.

Based on current rates of ownership, the rise in population alone is set to increase this figure to around 32 million cars in the next two decades. 

Not only are there more cars in than ever before, they are getting bigger. The Ford Escort of 1968 was five feet wide. Today’s Ford Focus is six feet wide.

Even where properties have garages these are increasingly used for storage of things other than vehicles or being converted into extra accommodation. A third less cars are put away in a garage overnight than a decade ago.

The figures are amongst those contained in Spaced Out: Perspectives on parking policywritten by John Bates and David Leibling which is published today by the RAC Foundation.

The report is an in-depth look at parking patterns and provision across Britain. It also reveals that:

  • The average car is parked at home for 80% of the time, parked elsewhere for 16% of the time and is only on the move for 4% of the time
  • 94% of all parking acts away from the home are free
  • Of the 6% of parking acts which are charged for, almost half cost less than £1
  • On average 800 cars are parked every second
  • Excluding charges for residents’ parking, the annual parking costs for a car are £42. By comparison the average car consumes £1,600 worth of fuel annually
  • In London roughly half of councils’ on-street parking income comes from parking fees and permits, and half from penalties. Outside of the capital, the ratio is 55:45
  • Together, councils in London (including Transport for London) made a surplus of £180 million in 2009/10 from parking activities
  • Together, councils in the rest of England made a surplus of £310 million in 2009/10 from parking activities