The report was presented by Navtej Tung.
The Chair noted that there were 1.5 spaces per dwelling in flats with medium accessibility and commented that the bare minimum was too low as page 38 showed that there was an increase in car ownership. He questioned whether it was unreasonable to ask for a higher minimum of car parking spaces.
Matthew Ford explained that extensive research had been undertaken in the car parking standards which had been based on Chafford Hundred as a viable research area. The research had looked at how various government parking policies had affected the development over the past 20 years. There had been a very high level of parking provision until 2013 when the government applied the Planning Policy Guidance 2013 (PPG2013) for maximum parking standards and developers had to reduce the level of parking demand by providing a lower parking standard. The research had identified on the eastern side of Chafford Hundred, there had been a very high level of parking provision at the start but most of that relied on off street parking or garage spaces due to people converting their garages or extending out onto their driveways. In western Chafford Hundred, there were more on street parking and allocated parking spaces so the level of parking was quite consistent.
Matthew Ford went on to say that since 2013, the PPG2013 had been removed as a policy statement and the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) provided guidance on a more reasonable approach to parking spaces which should be based on local circumstances. The Council had considered a range of parking scenarios for flats and houses to ensure the right mix in the right location.
Referring to page 39 on car ownership figures in Thurrock from the 2011 census data, Matthew Ford gave examples of Aveley Upland and Grays Riverside which showed a level of consistent car ownership with the one to two parking provisions. He pointed out that the increase in car ownership between 2001 and 2011 was not enough to change parking standards. He said that the service worked with developers on parking spaces to reduce car ownership for their sites otherwise they would not be able to provide the density needed on the site. Parking provision was taken into consideration on certain sites such as a recent development near a school which had a rigid one space per unit provision for two, three, and four bedroom properties. The Highways Team had identified that there was a very high level of on-street parking provision that would overspill onto the road network so they had requested for more parking spaces as part of these standards. This would also enable people to install electric vehicle charging points on their properties. The service encouraged developers from providing garage spaces to avoid conversion of these into rooms which would reduce a parking space on a property. For four or more bedroom properties, the service requested for an additional parking space due to larger amount of people living in those properties. The Council’s parking standards was evidence based on the census 2011 data and the research undertaken and would be looking into the census 2021 data once it was ready.
In regards to flats with high accessibility, the Chair noted that zero spaces were allocated per dwelling and questioned this. Matthew Ford answered that this was an opportunity for a car free development where the use of a car club could be provided. He said that based on research did not necessarily wish to own a car but to have access to one instead. This was ideal for people who commuted regularly but only needed a car for the weekend.
Referring to pages 56 and 124 in regards to school parking, Councillor Kerin queried how the Council supported schools and residents in school areas with parking issues. Matthew Ford answered that there was a parking standard for schools and that schools had to provide an adequate drop off and pick up point within the school’s site. He said that it was for schools to provide a travel plan to the Council and there was a Road Safety Team that worked with schools. There were planning and transport policies that schools needed to comply with.
Councillor Kerin pointed out that in some schools that had expanded, there was not enough space for a drop off and pick up point and that this was only possible in a newly built school who had that space. He felt that this was a highways issue as it required making the roads around schools accessible. Navtej Tung said that there were measures in place to resolve these issues such as closing a road during school rush hours which the service had undertaken recently through working with residents. The process was to engage with schools on these issues and to improve road safety whilst minimising traffic impact to local residents.
Referring to page 52 in regards to parking permits, Councillor Kerin noted that the Council aimed to be more sustainable but pointed out that public transport was not ideal for families. He said that it was not the right time to increase permit fees either and was not happy to endorse these increases as set out in the report’s recommendations. Phil Carver explained that the fee increases were only applied on the third permit and not the first and second permits.
Referring to page 69, Councillor Snell said that whilst there were parking facilities at train stations, people did not use these and parked in residential areas around the station. This was the issue for Ockendon hence why a PPA was implemented. He felt it was unfair to make residents pay for their own permits. He noted the charges on electric vehicles and pointed out that the infrastructure for electric vehicles in Thurrock was not ready yet. He went on to say that people needed a car to drive around Thurrock as the bus and rail links were not good and people were only to get around Thurrock but not outside of Thurrock. The Chair agreed and noted an introduction of a new tax on vehicles as reported on page 61. He stated that he could not endorse the recommendations in the report either.
Referring to the new tax on page 61, Matthew Ford explained that the tax was in regards to air quality and that the charges would encourage use of electric vehicles. This was a strategy for the Council to possibly explore but would not necessarily implement. The Chair felt that this option should not be explored until 5 to 10 years later.
Councillor Watson agreed with Members and said that there were not enough electric vehicle charging points in the borough. She said that there were planning issues with parking spaces and decreasing the amount of spaces did not help. She noted that London boroughs had limited parking spaces and pointed out that Thurrock was not part of London and the Council should only be considering what Thurrock needed. Councillor Kelly said that it was good to see the parking standards refreshed but felt that the standards needed to be increased and referred to recent developments of The Springhouse Club and Thames school. In regards to school drop off and pick up points, he said that parents did not go into school sites to use these as it was hard for them to get out afterwards. He did not agree with the use of a car club as it may not work in Thurrock and said that he would not endorse the report’s recommendations. He also suggested that there should be large parking bays for delivery vehicles to use on large developments.
In regards to the Springhouse Club, Matthew Ford explained that the development was in a medium accessible zone and had complied with parking standards but noted that Members had been able to compel the developers to increase the parking spaces. He went on to say that the parking standards had been implemented since 2012 and had been tested in planning appeals and that the standards were based on evidence. He also explained that the service was currently in the tender process for an electric vehicle partner to install the charging points as outlined in the report to PTR back in January 2021. Navtej Tung added that the car clubs were based on research.
Mat Kiely explained that the wider vision of the parking standards was set out in the Transport Strategy which encouraged people to use other modes of transports. The service was exploring ways to improve walking and cycling networks with more accessible routes as well as opportunities to encourage greater use of sustainable travel modes such as bus and rail. He said that with more homes, there would be an increased pressure on the road network, if active Travel and sustainable travel alternatives were not supported and enhanced as Local Plan growth aspirations were developed. There needed to be a balanced approach.
The Committee stated that they could not endorse and agree the recommendations as set out in the report.
1.1 To note and endorse the Parking Policy and Strategy document for adoption by Thurrock Council.
1.2 To note and endorse the Parking Design & Development Standards document for adoption by Thurrock Council.
1.3 To note and endorse the Parking Enforcement Strategy document for adoption by Thurrock Council