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Changes to UK car parking space sizes

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January 25, 2024
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New guidelines from the Institution of Structural Engineers have been released, recommending significantly expanding the sizes of standard parking spaces. While larger parking spaces could offer all drivers the space modern cars now require, the changes would lead to some loss in the number of parking spaces across UK cities.

Parking: the need for transformation

According to the new guidance, car park spaces should increase at least 5% in length and 8% in width. This means an average parking space will go from an average 2.4 by 4.8 metres to roughly 2.6 by 5.0 metres.

The standard for current parking spaces had been based on vehicle sizes from the 1970s, when the last publication of the Institution of Structural Engineers’ guidance was released.

Underground car park

FleetNews found that the current Range Rover occupies a substantial 86% of the typical parking space, leaving just 21cm of clearance for drivers to exit. In contrast, the 1970s model of the same car only claimed 69%!

The proposed increase in parking space dimensions can be justified by the growth in sales of larger vehicles in the UK. In 2020, SUVs exceeded 21% of total car sales in the UK, totalling over 340,000 SUV sales through the year and marking a 7% increase in 5 years from 2015.

The popularity of SUVs and other large cars can be attributed to the shift in drivers’ lifestyle choices and a growing awareness around accessibility, which has brought about subsequent changes to vehicles’ practicality, comfort, safety features and advanced technology (e.g. assisted parking).

Rolling out larger car parking spaces is just one way car park operators can accommodate growing cars and their owners.

The potential impact of wider car parking spaces

For existing car parks to adopt larger parking spaces, the current spaces will need to be expanded, in-turn reducing the overall number of parking spaces in existing car parks. An estimated 25,000 car parking spaces could be lost across 10 major UK cities.

Some of the cities with the largest potential losses of car parking spaces include London (12,281 spaces), Glasgow (2,046 spaces) and Leeds (1,603 spaces).

Infographic on the number of parking spaces that will be lost in major UK cities

The loss of car parking spaces across these cities will affect the availability of parking both day-to-day and on key dates and events, putting more onus on drivers to plan their trips further ahead.

On the other hand, larger spaces will enhance the overall parking experience for many car owners. The existing dimensions of parking spaces can present practical difficulties for many drivers and their passengers, restricting the ease with which people can exit their vehicles. The proposed space modifications would alleviate this difficulty.

Increasing the size of car parking spaces may benefit a range of people, such as owners of four-wheel drives, people with disabilities or parents of young children.

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Notes: Data on the number of current parking spaces sourced from WalesOnline, Parkopedia & Park Mark. Based on the 12.85% increase in recommended car park dimensions in the UK, the number of car parking spaces per city was divided by 1.1285 to calculate the estimated car parking spaces lost.

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