Householders should be free to turn their driveway into a car park to boost their income and help provide cheaper parking spaces, a Cabinet minister has said. Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles has vowed to clamp down on a "back-door parking tax" that forces residents to seek planning permission to charge.commuters to park on their property.
New government guidance will allow homeowners to rent out their drives for a single car without making a planning application. It comes after some town halls demanded that households apply for "change of use" planning permission costing £385, with the threat of a £20,000 fine if they did not, the minister said.
Pickles said: "Councils should be welcoming common sense ways that help hard-working people park easier and cheaply and for families to make some spare cash. Councils shouldn't be interfering in an honest activity that causes no harm to others, unless there are serious concerns.
"Parking charges and fines are not a cash cow for town halls. This government is standing up against the town hall parking bullies and over-zealous parking enforcement."
Households can earn more than £200 each month renting out their parking space, according to moneysavingexpert.com. Several internet companies have been set up to help households rent out their spare or unused dedicated off-street parking space near town centres, train stations and sports grounds.
A spokeswoman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said: "This provides a small income for hard-working families and helps provide more cheap parking spaces for people to park their car, taking pressure away from on-street parking.
Pickles said residents would be allowed to rent a single parking space without planning permission, provided there was no public nuisance to neighbours, or other substantive concerns. Householders wishing to change their garden into a car park or for other commercial uses would still require planning permission, he added.
It emerged this week that some councils were racking up huge surpluses from their parking-charge activities, according to figures from the RAC Foundation. In 2011/12, English councils had a total current account surplus of £565 million from their on-street and off-street parking operations.
This is a £54 million increase on the £511 million surplus in 2010/11, said the foundation.
Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, said: "Instinctively this has to be right. The number of cars has grown from two million in 1950 to 28.5 million today. The number of parking spaces has not increased at anything like a similar pace.
"If people can rent out a bedroom to a lodger then, within reason, why not let them lease out space on their drive? It is hardly a change of use. Surely, if we can reduce congestion on the streets, then councils should be rejoicing rather than moaning?"
AA president Edmund King said: "Whilst we thought Mr Pickles' line on parking on double yellow lines was too simplistic, this guidance is helpful.
"It is better to get cars off the road to keep traffic flowing. If driveways are empty during the day, it seems sensible to let their owners rent them out. Local authorities make enough money out of parking and this may help to bring people back to the high street. However, the most successful driveways for rent tend to be close to railway stations, airports, football grounds or concert venues. Cars are parked up for 95% of their time so if we can get more cars parked off-road it has to be a good thing."