How Innovative Parking Solutions Could Provide a Lifeline for Town Centres

Many town centres were already struggling to survive before Covid-19. Then, at the peak of the first lockdown, footfall in some areas declined to 15% of normal levels. Many retail businesses have been tipped over the edge by the pandemic and it’s not possible to predict how long the recovery will take or in what form it will happen.

Covid-19 has also put pressure on large city centres that were previously thriving. Trade from commuters and city-centre workers has declined dramatically and may never return to earlier levels. Imploring workers to return to the office might not be effective if businesses are finding ways to function efficiently without the commute or the cost of large central office spaces.

Short-Term Problems and Temporary Initiatives

In the longer term, markets are usually quite resilient. Workable solutions tend to evolve. This might mean different types of retail activity or greater mixed-use of premises. The big question is what can be done to stimulate activity and revive town centres in the short term?

One area to look at is parking. The normal view is that parking is provided to meet demand. But is it possible to turn that thinking around? Could additional parking provision form part of a solution that will increase town centre activity during the next few years of uncertainty?

For example, temporary food or craft markets could be installed for a period of four or five years. These could easily be integrated with parking for visitors within a modular parking system – making the facility completely self-contained. It could add value to the town without adding to the parking burden.

Modular systems, such as the one developed by Osborne and Siderpark are easy to install. The ability to assemble and disassemble the structure relatively quickly opens new possibilities. Spaces and places for people to visit can be created where only a temporary license is available and the traditional investment in infrastructure is uneconomic.

Temporary additional parking could also help towns to pedestrianise high streets and shopping areas, making them more inviting and allowing cafes and bars to move outdoors. Surface level car parks on the periphery of town centres can easily benefit from an additional one or two parking decks. This capacity could remove the need for traffic to access some major shopping streets.

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