Car Ownership is Growing – Waltham Forest Edition

Following the implementation of Waltham Forest’s Mini-Holland scheme, it is worth keeping an eye on car ownership trends to see if there is any impact.  Data is only available to 2016 Q3 at the moment, but the Waltham Forest (E17) trend, highlighted in pink, shows that car ownership is not just increasing by Mini-Holland.  The rate at which car ownership is increasing, is also increasing in E17, while the same trend curve for neighbouring E4 (in light blue) is practically straight.


We will have to wait and see, but no London council currently has a target to reduce its local car ownership, or set an upper limit. As Mini-Holland doesn’t involve the removal of any resident on-street parking, it is difficult to see why anyone would sell their car for any reason of constraint of space.  So, if the pink curve trends upwards through 2017 as well, it would suggest the new sustainable walking and cycling journeys taking place are additional, or separate to existing car journeys.  While this is positive, it should not be incorrectly interpreted in a way which suggests modal shift away from the car is a “job done”, yet.

So the enormous increase in commuter cycling from the Mini-Holland area may not be part of a modal shift from cars, but a substitute for walking journeys previously made.  Increased family cycling activity may simply be additional journeys made rather than staying at home, which is of course positive.  However, this does raise the question of Mini-Holland as a template.  It produces a pleasant streetscape, and safer cycling routes. But if the wider context is increased car ownership, we do need to measure the impact of these journeys on surrounding London streets, including increased displaced traffic due to roads closed to main road access as part of the Mini-Holland implementation.

The danger is that the Mini-Holland template so many are advocating as a London-wide model has the effect of protecting and concealing local car ownership, and serves the interests of commuter cyclist at the expense of the quiet-route cyclist, due to increases in on-street car storage, often by cyclist beneficiaries of the new segregated routes.  That the many pictures (often of the same scene) re-tweeted across the Web are actually a kind of Potemkin Village, with the truth lying just outside the camera lens perimeter’s chocolate-box-filtered focus.  This includes marginalisation of the rights of the poorest, including pedestrians, as resident-only “permitted footway” parking means pensioners and those of restricted mobility without cars have a reduced quality of urban environment, and should “watch it mate, that’s my car” when passing, keeping a respectful distance.

It is important we have a data-led approach before rolling out this model across London, including impact assessments to gauge upper sustainable limits of numbers of cars owned in London, and ANPR data so that we can publish details on which council wards traffic originates from, and gradually address this in future local council policy.

Car Ownership is Increasing – Tower Hamlets Edition

There is a spirit of anecdotal evangelism abroad in planning circles on Twitter, when it comes to discussing car ownership trends in UK cities.  A typical comment will be along the lines of:

“Actually, good things are happening in our area on car ownership, it’s going in the right direction.  You high street businesses should play your best card and try to attract cyclists, even though we planners haven’t provided you with any cycle racks for visitors.”

The logic seems to be that it is OK to misrepresent an actual trend, because if you report accurately on car ownership trends then it might possibly interrupt ongoing cycle and walking investment programs. And best to conceal any collateral damage suffered by the high street as we double-think this through.

Unfortunately, car ownership is going in the wrong direction, according to vehicle licensing statistics (more recent and more accurate than census data).  The following graphs the trend in Tower Hamlets (based on postcodes E1, E2, E3 and E14):

Tower Hamlets Car Ownership Trend since 2010 (earliest available statistics)

Tower Hamlets Car Ownership Growth

So I might possibly have mentioned this before, but the trend is rising car ownership in London, and no London local authority has an objective to reduce or limit car ownership numbers.



But if Visitor Parking was in Side Streets ….

… It would be a rat run 

Creating visitor parking in side streets near the main road would make it possible for motorists already passing shops on the main road to stop, within 50 to 100 metres or so, and shop.  And then leave the same way, from the same street, back to the main route.  So it is difficult to see how this would encourage rat-run conditions.  If this were a concern, the far end of the side street could be width-restricted so only micro-cars were able to pass through, meaning any local motorist residents parking in that side street could only exit the side street on to the main road.  It would be difficult to argue against this, unless those motorist residents needed a regular rat-run route of their own through local side streets …

… There would be excess traffic

Concerns with through traffic could be dealt with as above (with width-restrictions, so only micro-cars could pass at the far end).

Would there be more traffic on the main road? This rests on the contention that visitor parking for the high street would create noticeably additional journeys than are already made on the main road for other reasons.  Because purchases from the high-street are usually incidental, rather than strategic weekly shops, this makes it likely that motoring visits to the high street are usually done as part of journeys already being made, such as to work, the school run, or even a supermarket shop.  Whereas a full supermarket shop is usual the main reason for a driving journey and its attendant pollution being made.

If side street traffic numbers became a problem, it would be straightforward to react as follows:

  1. Restrict access to electric cars and/or micro-cars from the main road.
  2. If excess traffic remained unmanageable, introducing visitor-parking pricing at a level which achieves a target occupancy, for example, an aim to have 30% of the visitor spaces filled during trading hours of main road shops.  The exact target occupancy percentage would vary depending on location and how many empty shops there were locally, all of which should be regularly measured.

… putting visitor parking in the side street would mean you couldn’t load from the main road

As TfL remind us regularly, loading bays are not the same as visitor parking bays.  The reason the two are conflated is that both motorists and TfL Police grasp that there is insufficient visitor parking provided in general, across London.  So the Police look the other way, and motorists intuitively grasp this will happen, and misuse the loading bay spaces.

There is no harm in including dedicated loading bays on the main road, and enforcing these strictly, making it loudly and widely known that there is plentiful designated visitor parking within 100 metres or so of any main road shopping parade.

Car Ownership Trends since 2013

There have been a lot of assertions made on Twitter and in local government documents that car ownership is falling in central London.  Arguably, the discussion should be whether the current level of car ownership is harmful to policy goals on obesity, pollution and road traffic collision reductions, and what the limit should be.  However, it is also important to know in which direction we are headed.

The elephant in the room is the effect of the “Great Recession” of 2008 on car purchasing, and whether the reduction in car ownership spanning years either side of 2008 is part of a wider trend of car ownership reduction which transcends that effect.  Arguably, it is for those who claim a fall in car ownership to demonstrate that a fall in car ownership over that time frame was not simply part of the general rationalisation of spending which took place, and which some argue is still a constraint on normal economic patterns, such as wage growth.

Here, I will focus just on car ownership, and leave the Recession as being noted as an unquantified factor in restricting car ownership increases, approximately from 2006 to 2013.

These graphs are generated from the VEH0122 spreadsheets available for download from

Camberwell Car Ownership No’s since 2013:


The trend-line shows unmistakable growth as a trend since 2013 bottoming out, post-Recession, increasing car ownership from 7,900 to 8,500 along the trend-line.  The question is, is this a “cat’s bounce”? We are entering a fourth year of straight growth, so this is unlikely.  However, let’s keep an open mind.  What has happened nationally since 2013?

Total Car Ownership No’s (Everything) Since 2013


There is a pronounced trend of growth nationally over the same period.  This is steeper than in Camberwell, which might suggest that land scarcity vs number of cars owned is a factor.  Still, no doubt about the general trend.  Let’s look at Camberwell since 2010 – the period used for claims that “car ownership is falling in Camberwell”:

Camberwell Car Ownership No’s Since 2010


The trend-line shows an approximate fall from 8,300 to 8,200 over the source of six years, which represents shrinkage of 1.2%. Not per year, -1.2% over six years.

Apart from this negligible figure there are a number of explanations for why this does not represent a decisive shift away from car ownership, including the overall shrinkage of the local economy in Camberwell, with mass conversions of commercial uses to residential.  This led to a depletion of spending power so that, for example, the Camberwell business community was unable to qualify for the BID application process, and was graded as unviable.

Total Car Ownership Numbers (Everything) Since 2010


It’s true that Camberwell did not grow at the same rate as nationally, from 2010 to 2016, as can be seen from the above picture.  However, this does not change the fact that -1.2% over six years does not represent a trend of falling car ownership.


Draft CPZ Consultation

Southwark and Lambeth Council CPZ Consultation
for All Residents, Businesses & Local Amenities
(including pedestrians)

Creating a Fairer Kerbside

1. What do you think the main purpose of a CPZ should be?

  • to make it easier for local motorists to store their cars locally
  • to make it easier and more pleasant for residents to walk and cycle
  • to balance the transport needs of local shops, churches, schools and visitor attractions, with those of local motorists
  • to reduce car ownership
  • Other (please specify)

2. Which kerbside use would you prefer near you? Please rank the following from 1-12, with 1 being your most preferred option:

  • Local motorist car storage
  • Short-stay visitor parking
  • Commuter parking (all-day)
  • Exercise space on low-impact surface
  • Secure cycle storage for local residents
  • Cycle racks for everyone
  • Cycle Quietway
  • Santander Cycle Hire Point
  • Wider pavements
  • Hedges, trees and other wayfaring plants
  • Edible vegetables and herbs for locals and passers-by
  • Other (please specify)

3. Please choose one of the following for what best characterises your local walkable area:

  • Residential-only
  • Mixed-use
  • Shopping, community or leisure use area

4. Some people think cars stored too near high street shops and visitor attractions are damaging to the shops and attractions. Do you agree with the idea of a radius for every shopping area, within which there should be no stored cars?


5. If you answered YES to question 4, do you agree that there should be outer rings past this radius, so that certain kerbside uses are nearer to the radius than others?


6. If you answered YES to question 5, please rank the following from 1-12 in order of preference, with 1 being the nearest kerbside use to the shops:

  • Local motorist car storage
  • Short-stay visitor parking
  • Commuter parking (all-day)
  • Exercise space on low-impact surface
  • Secure cycle storage for local residents
  • Cycle racks for everyone
  • Cycle Quietway
  • Santander Cycle Hire Point
  • Wider pavements
  • Hedges, trees and other wayfaring plants
  • Edible vegetables and herbs for locals and passers-by
  • Other (please specify)

7. How big do you think the radius should be for your local shops, within which there should be no stored cars?

  • 10 metres
  • 50 metres
  • Other (please specify)

8. If you have local shops which are empty, and we have already provided ample cycle racks and well-designed pedestrian space, which option would you prefer of the following three:

  • Increase visitor parking to attempt to increase the shops viability
  • Allow the owner of the building to convert the shop to residential
  • CPO the shop, and let it out at the highest rent offered, even if this is £1 per month

9. If you chose visitor parking for any of the above options, what do you think would be a fair ratio of visitor parking to shops:

  • 1:1 (1 space for every shop)
  • 1:2 (1 space for every two shops)
  • Other (please specify)

10. If you chose visitor parking for any of the above options, what type of short-stay visitor parking would you like to see?

  • zero emission cars only (e.g. electric/hydrogen)
  • micro-cars only (e.g. Smart cars)
  • zero emission or Smart cars
  • Any type of car

Last chance for council chiefs to prevent Brexit

Just 24 hours left for inner-city council chiefs to come clean and admit that the effect of their local planning policies has been to cause inner city decay, and that this is not the fault of EU regulation.

Southwark ToLet

To draw the conclusion that these local policies have created a class of dispossessed, with little access to “stepping stone” jobs, who experience the prospect of the cushion of welfare being systematically reduced and local services stretched by unplanned immigration.

To accept that this dispossessed class has looked for reasons behind its declining living standards and made a connection between their lower quality of life and the EU’s trading and freedom of movement rules.

To confess to being “intensely relaxed” about regions of poverty and lack of opportunity emerging in the inner city, because these regions are associated by politicians with shoring up a pre-booked vote for the left at local and national level for these wards and constituencies.

To confess that many local library closures are really the result of a loss of footfall, as surrounding local shops have been lost, making these areas less appealing as destinations and making these libraries appear “less popular” when reviewing funding of local services.

To accept responsibility for the lower quality of life which has made so many low-income workers desperate for some kind of significant change, and therefore inclined to vote Brexit.

To pledge fundamental policy change, promising to encourage and protect local businesses and employment by:

  1. increasing the cost for resident parking permits
  2. reducing the number of resident permits available and introducing needs-testing to qualify for these permits
  3. ensuring there is enough free short stay parking in side streets to equate to one space for every high street business
  4. issue a moratorium on all shop-to-residential conversions for two years until these changes had have a chance to take effect
  5. forcing all commercial landlords to advertise their premises for at least 6 months on their local council website before applying for conversion to residential or other change of use
  6. forcing disclosure of all offers received for properties advertised
  7. issuing compulsory purchase notices where landlords refuse to advertise or tenant empty commercial premises, to discourage “hanging on” for a conversion-to-residential bonanza
  8. conducting regular resident surveys to test whether there is demand for better quality or a wider range of local goods, services or jobs
  9. if the answer to (8) is “yes”, compel local landlords to let their empty properties for the highest offer, even if this offer is £1 per month, on pain of compulsory purchase
  10. replacing the strategy of commuter-based food and drink local economies with one where the council actively encourages businesses in all sectors to locate in the inner city, and explores ways for a support economy to evolve in the inner city which supplies services directly to professional services firms in the centre, other than sandwich deliveries

The promise of fundamental economic change within our sovereign powers inside the EU, and the delivery of the pound of flesh demanded by a dispossessed class, would replace the urge to use the Referendum to “send a message” which would not otherwise be heard.

This act of contrition and pledge for change by council chiefs would surely confirm a Remain vote beyond doubt.



Brexit, Local Government and you

Many Brexit voters are desperate for something to change. The perception is that having tried everything, only shaking the foundation will now do.

Many low-waged or unemployed British citizens feel the pain of an unplanned influx of migrants apparently keeping wage inflation low, and seeming to have an impact on each existing citizen slice of the public services pie.

Even though we actually retain local sovereign UK powers to counteract these social problems, we sometimes choose not to exercise these sovereign powers.


For example, inner-city councils have a strategy of de-emphasising employment areas and manufacturing, and associating town-centre regeneration solely with a commuter-consumer-focused food, drink and groceries offer.  The result is that there are fewer stepping-stone jobs, and fewer opportunities to progress gradually from low wages to career development and quality of life.

The Southwark Core Strategy actively discourages retail activity outside town centres. This keeps big business dominant and creates barriers to entry for independent entrepreneurs as visitor parking is removed and commercial uses eradicated in more affordable areas.  Fewer local goods and services, and less local employment result.

It can be argued that the Brexit tipping point vote is displacing energy which should be focused on building local employment hand-in-hand with local government.

However, the response from local politicians has been to lecture Brexiteers on the benefits of immigration, rather than acknowledging that there are issues with low wage inflation which are connected with local economies shaped by local planners, more than with evil employers scavenging for cheap labour.

A strange justice for pro-EU councils if we do Vote Leave, and it turns out that the tipping point was based on disaffection with social problems which we had all the resources and sovereignty to solve, at Local Government level.