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

Elizabeth Jean Taylor, Reuben van Bemmel-Misrachi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


A relatively recent body of literature has looked critically at the role of car parking in urban areas, show-ing that a significant determinant of the extent of parking space is the planning system. Of particularimportance are statutory minimum off-street parking requirements for new developments. If parkingand 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, carparking has been a stated strategic planning interest over the course of nearly a century of planning forone city − Melbourne, Australia. Our approach has three parts: a content analysis of strategic planningdocuments over time; a corresponding analysis of statutory policies on the ground; and reflection onwhat 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 criticalcomponent of facilitating a car-based city. We show that car parking has receded as a strategic policyissue over time, but that statutory minimum parking requirements introduced in the 1950s continueto be entrenched. Even with more recent strategic plans seeking to curtail car use and increase urbandensities, minimum parking policies originally introduced to achieve the opposite effects have remainedlargely 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 findingshave implications for other intensifying cities with a history of minimum parking policies; as well as forcities now undergoing rapid motorisation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)287-297
Number of pages11
JournalLand Use Policy
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • car parking
  • land use planning
  • parking policy
  • urban containment
  • Melbourne

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