UK Councils Restrict Parking for Larger Vehicles as Car Sizes Grow

Five UK councils have introduced length restrictions on vehicles in public car parks, affecting larger models like Audi A8 and Land Rover Defender 130. Despite growing car sizes, 91.8% of authorities have no plans to increase parking space dimensions, which have remained unchanged since the 1970s.

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Bijay Laxmi
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UK Councils Restrict Parking for Larger Vehicles as Car Sizes Grow

UK Councils Restrict Parking for Larger Vehicles as Car Sizes Grow

Five local councils in the UK have introduced length restrictions on vehicles using their public car parks, affecting popular larger models like the Audi A8, Land Rover Defender 130, and Mercedes-Benz S-Class. The councils of Wokingham, South Hams, Broadland, South Norfolk, and West Devon now impose a maximum vehicle length of 5 meters in an effort to address the growing size of modern cars.

Why this matters: This trend highlights the need for urban planning and infrastructure to adapt to the changing dimensions of vehicles, which can have a significant impact on road safety and accessibility. As cars continue to grow in size, it may lead to increased congestion, reduced parking options, and decreased mobility for pedestrians and cyclists.

Despite the increasing dimensions of passenger vehicles, with cars growing an average of 1cm in width every two years, 91.8% of the 287 authorities that responded to Autocar's Freedom of Information request have no plans to increase the size of their council-run parking spaces. The minimum dimensions for off-street parking bays in the UK have remained unchanged since the 1970s, with a width of 2.4 meters and a length of 4.8 meters.

Mark Tisshaw, editor of Autocar Business, commented, "We know that cars are getting longer and wider, typically due to ever stricter crash and safety legislation they must meet, and these figures show too few councils are adapting to this new reality." The length restrictions put drivers of larger vehicles at risk of fines when using council-run facilities, with cars like the Range Rover, Tesla Model S and Model X EVs, and Kia's electric EV9 SUV considered unparkable in these areas.

Mike Hawes, chief executive at the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, defended the increasing size of vehicles, stating, "Modern cars are packed with advanced safety technology that protects passengers and other road users from airbags to crumple zones, all of which contribute to vehicles being larger than before." Since 2018, councils have issued over 357,000 Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs) for cars parked outside marked bays, generating over £8 million in revenue.

The trend towards larger vehicles is not limited to length, as research by Transport & Environment (T&E) found that more than half of new cars sold in 2023 are too wide for the minimum specified on-street parking space of 180cm in major UK cities. The average width of new cars has increased to 180.3cm in the first half of 2023, up from 177.8cm in 2018. This growth in vehicle size is reducing road space available for other vehicles and cyclists while parked cars further encroach on footpaths.

As the dimensions of modern vehicles continue to increase, driven by advancements in safety technology and design, UK councils face the challenge of adapting parking infrastructure to accommodate these changes. With only a small percentage of authorities planning to increase the size of parking bays, drivers of larger vehicles may find themselves facing fines and limited parking options in certain areas. The impact of this trend extends beyond individual drivers, as the growing size of cars also affects the availability of road space for other users and the accessibility of footpaths for pedestrians.

Key Takeaways

  • 5 UK councils impose 5m length limit on public car parks, affecting larger models.
  • 91.8% of UK authorities have no plans to increase parking space sizes.
  • Cars have grown 1cm in width every 2 years, but parking bay sizes remain unchanged.
  • Larger vehicles may face fines and limited parking options in certain areas.
  • Increasing car size affects road space, pedestrian accessibility, and cyclist safety.