The elephant in the scheme: Planning for and around car parking in Melbourne, 1929–2016

Elizabeth Jean Taylor, Reuben van Bemmel-Misrachi

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17 Citations (Scopus)


A relatively recent body of literature has looked critically at the role of car parking in urban areas, showing that a significant determinant of the extent of parking space is the planning system. Of particular importance are statutory minimum off-street parking requirements for new developments. If parking and parking policies are significant to urban outcomes, one question that follows is − how active a role (if any) has strategic urban planning had in car parking? In this paper we ask if, and in what ways, car parking has been a stated strategic planning interest over the course of nearly a century of planning for one city − Melbourne, Australia. Our approach has three parts: a content analysis of strategic planning documents over time; a corresponding analysis of statutory policies on the ground; and reflection on what this means for the relationships between strategy and policy. We find that extensive car parking, treated as a public good, was once specifically planned as a critical component of facilitating a car-based city. We show that car parking has receded as a strategic policy issue over time, but that statutory minimum parking requirements introduced in the 1950s continue to be entrenched. Even with more recent strategic plans seeking to curtail car use and increase urban densities, minimum parking policies originally introduced to achieve the opposite effects have remained largely intact. We argue that parking has a significant role in urban form but is, in our case study city, illustrative of gaps between strategic and statutory planning, and between planning practice and research. Whereas post-war planning instigated policy approaches to car parking as a means of planning for car use, strategic planning in Melbourne now plans around parking − the elephant in the scheme. The findings have implications for other intensifying cities with a history of minimum parking policies; as well as for cities now undergoing rapid motorisation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)287-297
Number of pages11
JournalLand Use Policy
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Car parking
  • Land use planning
  • Melbourne
  • Parking policy
  • Urban containment

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