London parking maximums (and minimums abolition)
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Brief summary of this reform
All London Boroughs abolished their minimum parking requirements for all land-uses and adopted maximums in 2004 or in the years soon after. [But note that parts of central London already had parking maximums decades before this.]
Why should you care?
London (and England more widely) is a prominent case of a large city that has been almost completely without parking minimums, and has applied parking maximums, for more than 15 years now. The impacts of the reform on residential parking provision have been closely studies by Zhan Guo and his colleagues.
Key actor type
mode shift or TDM
Greater London Authority and the 33 London Boroughs
Is it a model or a warning?
Main parking category
Main parking paradigm shift
maximums or caps (including minimums switched to maximums)
Promotes all three Adaptive Parking paradigm shifts
Adaptive Parking thrust
D: Discourage or limit parking supply in certain contexts
Goals of the reform
England's Planning Policy Guidance 13: Transport of 2001 stated that “maximum standards should be designed to be used as part of a package of measures to promote sustainable transport choices.”
Impetus (what problem, campaign, opportunity or event prompted action?)
Wider national policy trends seem to have been behind this reform but more information is needed.
Detailed description of the reform
All London Boroughs abolished their minimum parking requirements and adopted maximums in 2004 or in the years soon after. This change applied to all land-use types.
Transport for London (TfL) Public Transport Accessibility Scores (PTAL scores) helps developers decide how much parking provision is appropriate in each location across the city.
Different maximums apply to different areas, guided by PTAL scores and by London
Plan spatial designations and use classes. Maximums applying in central London are very restrictive and allow very little parking to be built. For example, under the London Plan, office buildings in central and inner London have a parking maximum of zero (except for 'disabled persons parking').
Those applying in outer areas are permissive and still allow quite abundant parking to be provided. The highest maximum for office and for retail buildings under the London Plan is 1 space per 50 square metres.
It should be noted that, despite the abolition of parking minimums and the adoption of maximums, some local authorities in England, including some London boroughs, remained concerned about parking under-provision. Similar to the case of Dublin, Ireland, many of them seem to treat the parking maximums as a target rather than a maximum and require developers to provide strong justification for development proposals with parking much below the maximums.
The shift to maximums occurred after 'the Greater London Authority (GLA) passed the London Plan in February 2004, which required local authorities to shift from a minimum to a maximum standard.'
Parts of London have had parking maximums since 1976: "The Greater
London Development Plan (1976) (paras 5.8.16 to 5.8.22 and Table 4) set maximums for offices and shops "with different levels for the Central Area, Inner Ring, more
important suburban centres and in the remainder of Outer London".
The GLA policy in turn was in line with national policy guidance PPG13 for England, which was published in 2001 and said that car parking standards should be expressed as maximums not minimums and that developers should normally have discretion to provide as little parking as they consider necessary.
As context, in large parts of London on-street parking is strictly managed under CPZs (controlled parking zones). These have certain faults but do reliably control chaotic and obstructive parking in the areas under them.
National guidance changed in 2019. The National Planning Policy Framework opened the door to minimums and discouraged parking maximums ("Maximum parking standards for residential and non-residential development should only be set where there is a clear and compelling justification that they are necessary for managing the local road network.").
The new London Plan 2021 still calls for parking maximums for all land-uses but does now allow residential parking minimums in outer areas: "Outer London boroughs wishing to adopt minimum residential parking standards through a Development Plan Document (within the maximum standards set out in Policy T6 .1 Residential parking) must only do so for parts of London that are PTAL 0-1. Inner London boroughs should not adopt minimum standards. Minimum standards are not appropriate for non-residential use classes in any part of London." (p. 423) Have any London boroughs yet adopted any residential minimums?
Results or impacts
Zhan Guo and colleagues studied the impact of the reform on residential development, finding that the main impact was from removing the minimums, not from the maximums. The main conclusions were: "The number of parking spaces supplied after the 2004 parking reform fell by approximately 40 percent when compared to the number of parking spaces that would have been supplied with the previous minimum parking requirements. This means that from 2004 to 2010, the new parking requirements led to a total of 143,893 fewer spaces. No other alternative explanations (car ownership saturation, development constraints, congestion charging, oil price spike, etc.) account for such a dramatic decline. Furthermore, almost all the reduction in parking supply was caused by eliminating the minimum standards, declining only 2.2 percent due to adoption of the maximum standards."
Have there been other studies of the parking maximums in London, such as the effects of the maximums for other land-uses?
Sources and acknowledgements
Zhan Guo, "From Parking Minimums to Parking Maximums in London", Access magazine, Fall 2016.
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, February 2019, "National Planning Policy Framework",
London Plan 2021.
London Forum statement
16 Mar 2021