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Drivers squeezed as parking space shrinks

Press release: 13/07/2012

  • Residential parking space has shrunk in size by 9% over the past decade
  • Westminster has the smallest amount of parking space per car at 4.33 metres, just 3cm longer than the average car
  • One in four (27%) councils have increased the cost for residential parking permits since 2008, with Birmingham having the most expensive permit
  • Mid Devon District Council has the longest wait (eight years) for a residential parking permit

The average amount of space for parking in residential areas has shrunk by 9% over the past decade[1] while the number of vehicles has continued to increase.

According to new 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[2], 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[3]. 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[4] 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[5], 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)[6], with residential parking permits netting councils more than £47.8 million in 2011 alone[7].

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)[8].

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[9].

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."

Notes to editors:

LV= car insurance commissioned Nelson Research to assess trends in residential parking space by mapping the number of cars against the size (in metres) of on-road and off-road parking throughout England, down to Local Area District Level. Sources used were Housing type profiles from Department for Communities and Local Government and The Survey of English Housing, trends in numbers of dwellings at Local Authority District level from Department for Communities and Local Government, trends in numbers of cars at Local Authority District level from Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions/Tempro (checked against latest trend data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders), information on prevalence of dwellings situated on main roads (Survey of English Housing), and availability of off-street parking by housing types (Survey of English Housing), census data on population density and lowest floor of dwellings, and the PCP omnibus among 2,000+ drivers detailed below.

LV= car insurance issued Freedom of Information requests to 371 UK city, district, borough and county councils. Of these 223 responded with at least one piece of data. 148 are either yet to respond, said that they didn’t keep the data, or that they had no parking schemes in their area. The FOI request asked: the longest wait for a permit in the area, the cost of a parking permit in 2008, 2011 and 2012, the most expensive permit and the location for the permit, the amount (£) generated from resident permits in 2011, and whether the council increased parking zones in the past 12 months.

In addition, LV= car insurance commissioned PCP Research to conduct omnibus research among 2,000 motorists, asking about their experiences of parking in the area they live in between 16-22 May 2012.


  1. The figures for the availability of residential parking space are derived from models for on-street and off-street parking, each using different data sources (see notes to editors). This was then mapped against the number of cars and vans on the road over the same period. It reveals that the average amount of residential parking space per car has fallen from 9.84 metres (in length) per car to 8.97 metres per car since 2001 – a decrease of 9% in the past ten years.

  2. Source: The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders Industry Facts 2012

  3. Nelson Research used data from SMMT and Parkers to identify the best-selling cars in the UK and compare their lengths in 2001 and 2011. In total, data on car length (in mm) was collated for 590 different models (2001 models vs. 2011 models or most recent), including the Ford Focus (estate, Saloon and Hatchback), Vauxhall Astra (Estate, Coupe and Hatchback), Ford Fiesta, Vauxhall Corsa, Peugot 206/207 Gti, and Volkswagen Golf (Cabriolet, Estate and Hatchback). Every major model measured increased in length during the study period

  4. Source: Freedom of Information request submitted by LV= car insurance in May/June 2012. Of the 371 councils that were approached 101 (27%) have increased prices on resident parking permits since 2008, and 52 (14%) increased prices in 2012.

  5. 30,810,000 people currently drive in the UK (65% of UK adults), of whom 9% say they need a resident parking permit to park at home.

  6. These areas had the most expensive resident permit available to purchase. Birmingham (£785), Canterbury (£511) and Poole (£440). These are the most expensive permits in the areas and cheaper ones are available.

  7. Source: FOI data. This is the total amount (£) councils said they generated from resident permits in 2011.

  8. When councils answered in months or years the number was converted into days using the average of 30 days for a month and 365 days for a year. These were correct on 19th June 2012.

  9. Source: omnibus research conducted by PCP

About LV=

LV= employs over 5000 people and serves around five million customers with a range of financial products. We are the UK’s largest friendly society and a leading financial mutual.

When we started in 1843 our goal was to give financial security to more than just a privileged few and for many decades we were most commonly associated with providing a method of saving to people of modest means. Today we follow a similar purpose, helping people to protect and provide for the things they love, although on a much larger scale and through a wide range of financial services including insurance, investment and retirement products.

We offer our services direct to consumers, as well as through IFAs and brokers, and through strategic partnerships with organisations such as ASDA, Nationwide Building Society and a range of trades unions.

LVFS is authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority, register number 110035. LVFS is a member of the ABI, the AFM and ILAG. Registered address: County Gates, Bournemouth BH1 2NF.