Monthly journal Parking Review has been the definitive source of news and intelligence on the UK and international public and private parking sectors since 1989.

Predicting the journey out of lockdown

What can traffic and parking data tell us to expect from the easing of restrictions? ZatPark’s Dave Herbert makes some predictions

Dave Herbert
09 April 2021
Changes in traffic and parking activity 2020-21 (Source: ZatPark)
Changes in traffic and parking activity 2020-21 (Source: ZatPark)


The current, receding lockdown period has been different from those that have gone before, with ZatNation automatic numberplate recognition (ANPR) read volumes proportionately higher than the overall volume of traffic across the UK major road network.

Perhaps highlighting lockdown apathy within communities, or showing that motorists are undertaking more local journeys (not using trunk routes that make up the ONS data) than the earlier phases of COVID-19 and parking with increased compliance.

Our data suggest that it is embedded behaviour within the industry that as lockdown periods comes into effect, the volume of enforcement actions decreases to a greater extent than the volume of traffic/ANPR reads across the ZatNation. This is, in part, due to the continuing responsibility and flexibility of the parking enforcement community, working with their clients and site owners to maintain control and capacity for all. As the lockdown period normalises, operators and landowners understand that the behaviours and routines of motorists means the incidence of enforcement recovering at a slower rate than the overall volume of road traffic and site users.

Since the end of January 2021, we have seen an increase in all data points, something which we anticipate continuing as the tools of lockdown are removed, such as when schools returned on 8 March in England and, most significantly for parking, when on the 12 April non-essential retail, personal care services, outdoor hospitality and indoor leisure centres reopened.

If the current trends continue by the beginning of May, we would expect to see ONS volumes percentages in the high 80s, ANPR read volumes at or around 80% and enforcement actions recovering more slowly as enforcement catches up with usage volumes at around 70% of the activity of the first week of March 2020. So May 2021 could look like August 2020. Let’s hope we have a repeat of May 2020’s weather at least!

Retail recovery is vital to many in the parking industry. Data from Springboard, a provider of retail customer activity data, highlights that in the week to 6 March 2021, overall retail footfall in the UK was at 42% of its level in the equivalent week of 2020. In the same seven-day period, footfall at retail parks was at 69% of its level in the equivalent week of 2020, continuing the relative strength compared with high streets (35%) and shopping centres (31%).

Given the types of tenants that retail parks host, with higher proportions of essential retailers and the convenience for click & collect in single locations, the relative robustness of footfall is not counter-intuitive.

As retail and leisure unlocks we would anticipate high streets recovering quicker than shopping centres, due in part to open-air restaurants opening on the same day, with retail parks still leading the way – although further usage growth may be curtailed by the structural changes to the retail sector that have been accelerated over the last 12 months, with overall retail footfall not recovering to its 2019 peak.

The next few weeks are going to be very interesting.

Dave Herbert is chief executive at ZatPark, a UK provider of parking management software. Launched by Dave Herbert and Lukasz Kieruczenko in 2010, ZatPark helps operators to become more efficient through the automation and systemisation of back office processes.

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