By Claire West

New planning guidance to be published this week will push for more town centre parking spaces and tackle the blight of ugly street clutter and aggressive ‘anti-car’ traffic calming measures like road humps, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles announced yesterday.

The new practice guidance, covering design, town centres and travel plans, will state that councils should understand the important role appropriate parking facilities can play in rejuvenating shops, high streets and town centres. It also sets out how town hall planning rules should not be used to tax drivers or justify development of crude traffic calming measures, such as poorly-sited bollards and road humps.

Approximately half of all parking is run by local authorities and recent research by the Association of Town and City Management has shown that there is a strong relationship between parking provision and high street footfall. The association has warned that aggressive municipal parking policies are now stifling local trade, and councils’ pursuit of car parking revenue in itself has ‘forgotten’ the original rationale for parking management. It notes that shoppers are being turned off by rigid enforcement policies and unwelcoming parking wardens.

The new government guidance is part of a new ‘easy to use’ online guide that replaces 7,000 pages of previous planning documents which created excessive red tape and made the planning system inaccessible to anyone other than planning lawyers, lobbyists and NGOs. It has been developed following an external review to make planning more accessible to councillors and local residents.

Today’s announcement is also part of a wider government initiative to support parking and local shoppers. Ministers will be making more announcements on parking in due course.

Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, said:

Draconian town hall parking policies and street clutter can make driving into town centres unnecessarily stressful and actually create more congestion because of lack of places to park. Anti-car measures are driving motorists into the arms of internet retailers and out of town superstores, taking their custom with them.

Trying to find somewhere to park has been an obstacle course in too many of our towns, cities and seaside resorts. Confusing and difficult car parking practices are undermining the economic vitality of the high street and tourist destinations. Over-zealous parking wardens have been inflicting real damage on local economies and given many towns and councils a bad name.

Town halls need to ditch their anti-car dogma. Making it easier to park will help support local shops, local jobs and tourism.