Are private drives the new car park?

By Francesca Williams
BBC News

image copyrightPeter Bartlett
image captionPeter Bartlett's small patch of London tarmac earns him and his flatmates £60 a month

When homeowners renting their driveways for parking were threatened with huge fines for not having planning permission it looked like the end of a trend. But, a year after communities secretary Eric Pickles told councils to back off, the industry has grown so much demand for spaces is outstripping supply.

Susan Mulinda's house is a few minutes' walk from Sunderland's Stadium of Light. A non-driver, she rents out its parking space for extra cash.

"I am making money for nothing really," she says. "I currently have a guy who lives in London but is a Sunderland supporter and has booked up every home game for the season."

She gets £8.50 a day, from the £10.60 parking website JustPark charges the driver. Football fans are her bread and butter but high-profile concerts also bring with them a flurry of inquiries.

JustPark was one of a clutch of websites, along with Your Parking Space, Park Let and Park on My Drive, that launched in the mid-2000s.

Swapping a rectangle of unused tarmac for cash became the next big thing. The renting entrepreneurs appeared in the papers, on TV, on radio and in glossy magazines.

But, by 2013, it looked like council red tape might be the end of it.

Charles Cridland, London-based founder of Your Parking Space, says Mr Pickles' announcement "gave the industry a huge level of credibility". Now demand is outstripping supply.

Your Parking Space has doubled its traffic since May, he says. JustPark also credits Pickles' "public endorsement" for a growth in business.

image copyrightYour Parking Space
image captionCharles Cridland says renting your drive is part of a wider trend towards a "sharing economy"

It now has more than 20,000 homeowners, churches, schools, hotels and pubs on its books, renting more than 100,000 spaces to about 500,000 drivers.

"To give you a sense of our growth, there were approximately 15,000 homeowners on the site this time last year," says the firm's Anna Brook. "Five years ago, there would have been hardly any, as the company was being run by our founder, Anthony Eskinazi, alone from his parents' attic."

JustPark's initial bookings were for spaces near Wembley, Arsenal and Old Trafford grounds and Gatwick and Stansted airports. At the time the company was called Park at My House - appropriate since Mr Eskinazi's parents were also among his first clients.

Cridland agrees London is "without doubt" the most popular location, followed by Manchester, Leeds, Bristol - "very tricky to park in" - and Edinburgh.

Renting out your drive - what to bear in mind

  • Know your market: Are you near a city centre, train station, airport, football stadium, concert venue or tourist attraction?
  • Set your price: Check the rental websites to see how much similar spaces near you are going for. They each have different approaches to commission, legal help and the management of your space
  • Location: During Wimbledon this year total local driveway rentals were valued by Just Park at £24,000 per day. If you live in Kensington and Chelsea, you could net £400 a month while Manchester, Bristol and Edinburgh are also popular
  • Planning permission: Many councils will now only get involved if there are a lot of cars, noise or nuisance but others are still not keen, despite Mr Pickles' announcement
  • Paperwork: Income could be taxable and mortgage lenders and insurers will want to know, especially if you scratch your customer's car and have to claim. Some rental sites offer insurance

"People are increasingly realising that they can earn an income from their home, whether it's an empty room, attic or parking space," Mr Cridland says.

It is all part of what he calls the "sharing economy", a growing industry of individuals making use of spare capacity. Accommodation websites such as Airbnb facilitate rents of anything from holiday homes to "a mattress in the corner of your living room". There are also websites like ShareMyStorage and Storemates renting attics, garages and sheds for storage.

For some, though, there is a distinction between renting outside and inside.

Peter Bartlett let his parking space in East London within two days of advertising it on Your Parking Space.

image copyrightGoogle
image captionChurches are turning to renting out spare parking capacity to make ends meet

"With the loft, with an extra room, it's kind of a bit personal, invading your own space," he says. "But with a parking space, especially with us in the building which is shared by about 200 other people, it's not really intruding and you don't really even notice it."

Cridland accepts there are potential hazards, remembering a woman with a motor home who "seemed really nice on the phone" until she said she planned to live in it on the renter's drive with her husband and cat.

Used to accepting all comers, churches are beginning to see the benefit of renting out spaces that only see traffic on Sundays.

New North Road Baptist Church, in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, rents out spaces at £20 a week, earning the church between £7,000 and £8,000 a year,.

Revd Wayne Clark says the money helps the church make ends meet but, while some "good friendships" have been made, there have been no additions to the congregation.

As demand has increased faster than spaces become available, the rental websites' solution was to sign up national car park chains, large hotels and businesses.

Mr Cridland might have 20,000 private spaces on his books, but he rents out 200,000 more belonging to commercial operators like NCP, at a discount.

"Driveway rentals are very big but I eventually see the bigger change being the movement of the whole parking industry online," Mr Cridland says. "Think of how you booked your last flight, rented a flat, or even found a partner.

"The parking industry will eventually go the same way."

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