Free Car Parking at Christmas

7th December 2021

Sustainable Epsom and Ewell have written to our local Borough Councillors to raise concern about the annual scheme for free car parking in Council car parks at weekends in the lead up to Christmas. Please find a copy of our letter below.

Dear Councillors,

I am writing to you with regard to the “free parking” scheme that has historically been promoted in Epsom and Ewell Borough car parks in December and which is again running this year. ( The reason cited of easy car access to protect our high streets through sustained footfall does not appear coherent.

Most of you will have probably already seen the studies showing that footfall to a high street increases with provision of “active” travel, safe streets and a pleasant environment. This study ( provides economic evidence that healthy high streets, i.e. those that have widened footpaths, ample and easy pedestrian crossings and cycle access and associated infrastructure see economic benefits. The study by TFL notes that in “healthy streets”:

  • Footfall increased - the number of people standing, waiting and sitting nearly doubled and people walking in the streets increased by 93%

  • People spent more time in the street, with a 216% increase in activity such as going into a shop, stopping at a café or sitting on a bench

  • Retail rental values increased by 7.5%, suggesting that local businesses are thriving in the area • More retail space was filled by businesses, as there was a 17% decline in retail vacancy

  • Office rental values increased by 4%, showing that improving streets is good for many types of business

There are many resources and case studies of Business Improvement Districts benefiting from healthy streets approaches available on the TFL Economic benefits of walking and cycling (

Free carparking is at odds with all Council and County strategies and priorities to reduce car travel and encourage “active travel” and public transport. It is also not accurate that car use has “no cost”, indeed there are detrimental impacts to health and wellbeing (air pollution and lack of exercise) as well as the costs associated with maintenance of roads which are often not included.

The policy of free car parking, to encourage car use to central shopping areas seems at odds with the following current local and regional policies:

  • Climate Action Plan, Year 1 (2020)- Theme 3- Transport improvements and switch to lower polluting vehicles measure 16 “Encourage more sustainable transport options for visiting the Town Centre” , measure 17 “ Increase the number of safe cycle routes through the borough”, measure 18 “ Encourage fewer cars per household”, measure 19 “ Encourage more cycle racks/covers”.

  • Climate Action Plan, Year 2 (2021)- Theme 3- Transport improvements and switch to lower polluting vehicles measure 10 “increase walking as an alternative to car use, encourage residents to walk through a range of initiatives and events” (Source document :

Surrey’s Climate Change Strategy’s Ambition Statement and Strategic Priorities (SP) for Transport and Air Quality

  • SP1: Prioritise investment in place- based development that creates well connected communities close to high quality places, spaces and services to reduce the number and length of car journeys for all residents

  • SP2 Invest in initiatives and infrastructure to increase the uptake of walking cycling and public transport alongside schemes to reduce reliance on the car e.g. ULEZ, pedestrianization and car free zones,

Specific actions include: By 2022:

Some alternatives to free parking could include:

  • Year round percentage of parking revenue directed to improving cycle and walking provision within our borough- for example this could fund cycle racks at all shop parades within the borough (there are none for example near Pound lane, along the parade of shops on Waterloo Road, the Horton parade of shops near Pelman way, or in front of St Martin of Tours church and in many parks and open spaces including the court Rec and Roseberry park).

  • Special December/Christmas appeal whereby a proportion of parking revenue or a voluntary additional donation e.g. 50p per visit is donated to support local groups such as Epsom and Ewell Food Bank, or to provide funding for insulating council homes or other green initiatives. - Provide incentives such as reduced fares for users of public transport using redirection of revenue from car park fees. This could be in the form of a refund when bus tickets or rail tickets are returned for dates within a certain period such as December etc.

  • Use of car park revenue to develop Local Cycling and Infrastructure Plans as required by County Transport and Air Quality Action from Surrey County Council Climate Change Strategy.

  • Provide some funding to invest in solar infrastructure within car parks. This could bring income to the council in the future.

Having heard on numerous occasions the financial restrictions and cuts facing our Council, it seems at odds that the Council chooses to favour one particular group of residents at the expense of others when there appear to be alternatives and even opportunities to positively meet some of the objectives set by the Council in terms of “green investment”. I look forward to hearing back from you on the points raised in this letter.