The report was presented by Navtej Tung.
Councillor Kelly asked whether there were any substantial changes since the report was last discussed at the PTR meeting on 5 October 2021. He commented that the parking strategy needed to acknowledge the issues that the borough currently faced and highlighted issues of the lack of visitor spaces in developments. He felt that there needed to be spaces for delivery vehicles to unload as well. Referring to the multi-storey car parks in Lakeside, he said that these worked well and commuters were able to park there for free but other areas such as Grays did not have this. Navtej Tung replied that there were no substantial changes since the last report but gave Members the opportunity to look at the policies again as requested by the Chair (Councillor Alex Anderson).
Referring to parking standards in new developments, Councillor Kerin asked if this took into consideration the changing nature of families as children became adults but was still living at home. This usually resulted in the purchase of another car which meant another parking space was needed. He also asked what support was in place to help schools with car parking issues. Referring to page 142, Matthew Ford said that a range of different land use and parking standards were outlined and this was applied to ensure that there were good provisions within schools such as drop off and pick up points. He referred to a recently approved planning application for the Orsett Heath Academy and explained how extra parking had been provided due to the recreational uses within the site and also to provide for the multi-functional provision to maximise these. He explained that land use focused on the area of a development where there were opportunities to relax parking standards such as town centre locations with other modes of transport or to provide appropriate parking provisions for facilities that were further away.
Councillor Kerin questioned what was in place to support existing schools who did not have those extra car parking spaces. Matthew Ford replied that the parking standards were not designed to mitigate existing schools and that there were different procedures for these. The service encouraged schools to use travel plans but needed schools to work with the service on these.
In regards to residential developments near train stations, Councillor Kerin commented that these did not have an adequate number of parking spaces. He queried the views of the service when developments proposed less parking spaces because of the proximity to the train station. Matthew Ford explained that over the past 10 – 15 years it had been difficult to evidence the need for adequate parking spaces in residential developments without a parking policy in place. He said that government policies had shifted to require certain parking standards which was reflected in the NPPF to require an appropriate mix of parking spaces. He went on to say that there were some developers who tried to reduce the number of spaces proposed but the policies and standards in the report would set the requirements for parking spaces in developments in Thurrock.
The Chair commented that the policy and standards set out attempted a modal shift in encouraging people to use other modes of transport. Referring to the table on page 72, he pointed out that wards with a higher percentage of no cars had a train station in their ward but the percentage of car usage was still high. He stated that the parking policy document was rejected at the last discussion because it forced people to use other modes of transport and people still wanted to use cars. Referring to page 84, he pointed out that parking permits penalised people for having a car. He went on to refer to page 93 and said that people would also be charged for using emission based vehicles.
Agreeing with the Chair, Councillor Watson said that her ward covered a large area and that most people owned a car. She said that reducing the number of parking spaces in new developments would cause cars to park on streets. She mentioned that she was a member of the Planning Committee and that there were not enough parking spaces in proposals and also no disability parking spaces. She stated that the borough could not cope with less parking spaces. Matthew Ford explained that the elements of the parking standards were evidence based on case studies that included Chafford Hundred and looked at the impact of car usage on the road network and how people moved around the borough. This gave a range of parking options which allowed for some flexibility for developers and for the Council and developers who proposed less parking spaces had to demonstrate how this would work. There was a requirement for developers to provide safe parking spaces and on plot parking as well as spaces for disabled users closer to the dwellings. On plot parking also enabled these to be used for electric charging points in future. He said that the service would not be encouraging garages as a parking space as these were not viable and could be converted into rooms. He explained that the parking standards document was not a fixed document and could change over time but the service needed a policy in place to support in appeals and applications.
In regards to the parking strategy, Navtej Tung explained that the document did not force people to use other modes of transport but only encouraged this modal shift. He said that car ownership was decreasing across the country and the document reflected this to encourage less car usage. He explained that the strategy did not aim to charge people for car use but only provided this opportunity. If there were to be charges, this would need to go through consultation. In regards to emission based vehicles, he explained that this part of the strategy looked at the opportunity to improve air quality.
The Chair pointed out that the document did not reflect the officers’ comments. He said that he had lived in Thurrock a long time and had only ever seen a modal shift in an increase in the use of cars. He stated that car ownership had declined elsewhere in the country but felt that this was not the case for Thurrock. Councillor Kerin added that there were no major changes in the documents from the last discussion and that the Committee still did not support the documents.
Referring to Orsett Heath Academy, Councillor Kelly said that the service should look to that development as a blueprint for future school developments. He stated that there needed to be an increase in the number of parking spaces in new developments and to ensure that there was a good balance. This included more visitor spaces and increasing the number of spaces per dwelling. He referred to the parking spaces proposed for Springhouse Club as an example. Councillor Carter stated that there should not be less parking spaces because a development was near a train station. He pointed out that the numbers reflected that car usage was still high in those areas. The Chair mentioned that there were no issues with the parking enforcement or design documents but he was not happy with the parking policy and standards documents. He was not happy to support the report’s recommendation and said that these documents needed to be reconsidered. He said that he wanted to see clarity on the emissions based vehicle charges and parking permits along with the other issues that the Committee had raised.
To review and propose recommendations for amendment to the Parking Policy and Strategy, Parking Design & Development Standards, and Parking Enforcement Strategy.