Taking a fresh approach to parking design and decoupling (most) parking spaces from homes can increase density and create more sociable places – making room for mixed uses, walkable streets and meaningful landscape spaces. 

 By using land and material resources more effectively we can begin to reduce the embodied carbon in construction towards the target if 1/10 of the current impact.

A UKGBC study – Building the Case for Net Zero (1.) looked at the carbon and cost impact of a masterplan for 750 homes in Cambridgeshire. This measured the embodied carbon of the homes and the infrastructure needed to support them and explored ways to reduce this. The baseline carbon of the ‘grey/green’ areas was 3,300,00 kgCo2e. Grey infrastructure – roads, parking and kerbs caused up 88% of the carbon emitted – roughly equivalent to the embodied carbon in building 80 terraced houses.

Different scenarios tested the impact of reducing grey infrastructure. By reducing parking, making tertiary streets permeable, and reducing the need for stormwater engineering by bringing more swales into streets the Co2 impact could be reduced by 20%. At the same time reducing parking provision enabled an increase in the number of homes and made the layout more efficient with an additional 39 homes supported by less infrastructure overall – the cost impact was 0.6%.

The following three examples illustrate the difference reducing grey infrastructure and placing most parking at a distance can have in towns and cities.


Hill Rise and Banbury Road, Woodstock North – Oxfordshire(25-50 dph)

Pollard Thomas Edwards (PTE)

Set out over two separate but related sites to the North of Woodstock this project is for small town extensions of 180 and 250 homes and was granted planning in 2022 and 2023. The micro neighbourhoods are designed to be make sensitive additions to the town that are multi-generational, energy efficient and include 50 % affordable homes. The homes are designed to the Passivhaus standard, the site is laid out almost north south and shading devices are included on east west windows.

Every home has an allocated parking space either on plot (84) or grouped in open courtyards (119) at the end of streets. There are also two ‘car barns’ for another 100 cars that are strategically located in relation to larger scale landscape spaces. This innovative approach reduces the space given over to car infrastructure from 40% to 14%. Importantly it also allows houses to have an outlook directly onto different types of landscape spaces including – village green, garden rooms, community allotments, woodland or wetland areas. PTE visualise how the car barns could be adapted in future if car use falls or perhaps sooner on special occasions when cars could be parked elsewhere.

The imagining of social opportunity and play is ambitious and the inclusion of the allotments, barns and a small community office give plenty of scope for people to animate spaces or curate events.

“We had a refreshingly unusual brief; to imagine a different relationship with private cars. The resulting dramatic change from car-shaped roads to landscaped sociable streets hints at what we could deliver if this cultural shift could be embraced more widely.” Alexis Butterfield, PTE

Client – Blenheim estate

The Pheonix – Lewis (87 dph)

Arup and multi-disciplinary team

The proposed mixed use development of 7.9 Ha brownfield site won planning approval early in 2024. It is for a regenerative urban neighbourhood of 700 homes that among other dimensions also aims to prioritise people over cars. The site is near a railways station and includes 313 parking spaces and a co mobility hub for 50 cars. The developers highlight how having access to shared cars can save costs of car ownership. This approach helped to achieve a much more compact and viable proposal on site previously consented for 416 homes.

There is more room for walkable streets and diverse and mixed uses. The proposal includes workspaces, workshops and studios, four community buildings including a community canteen and recreation amenities. Aims to support the circular economy and build community wealth. 100% renewable energy

“Its time to do development better. Bringing heart and soul and environmental rigour, as if people and planet mattered. As if the veneer of ‘everything will be OK’ disappeared and we took action instead. As if we thought long term not just of now. And as if we believed in the sense of place.” Human Nature

Client/developer – Human Nature

Merwede, Utrecht (200 dph)


Close to Utrecht’s old town and railway station a new high density neighbourhood is planned to meet the need of a growing city and make efficient use of valuable land and resources. The long rectangular site is situated between a boulevard and a canal. The proposed new neighbourhood will house 12,000 residents in 6,000 homes on 22 hectares over whilst offering just 0.3 parking spaces/home. Mobility hubs will give access to shared cars and bicycles, cars will be in underground car parks or at a distance in car parks 2km away accessible by tram (described as parking at a distance by the city council). As well as enabling more sustainable transport, minimising car use is desirable to prevent the new development causing gridlock on the road network.

Client – city/developer partnership

  1. UKGBC (2022) Building the Case for Net Zero: A case study for low carbon residential developments https://ukgbc.org/resources/building-the-case-for-net-zero-a-case-study-for-low-rise-residential-developments/
  1. Hajer, M et al (2020) Neighbourhoods for the Future, A Plea for a Social and Ecological Urbanism, trancity valiz, Amsterdam

Main image – Marmalade Lane, Cambridge

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