French v British Car Parking

There’s a decent discussion going on over at Tim Worstall’s about the state of car parking in British towns and cities.

One of the things I have noticed over my years in France is the presence of large underground car parks in French towns and cities, even the very old ones with lots of heritage buildings. People complain about not being able to find a parking space in Paris because they are looking for the free ones at street level, not the ones in dedicated car parks. When I was in Bordeaux last weekend I came across the entrance to an underground car park in a small square surrounded by old buildings:

According to the website there are 196 places down there.

You almost never see these municipal underground car parks in British towns and cities. Instead, you get surface or hideous multi-storey car parks. The same is true for residential buildings. In France, most modern apartment blocks come with two or three layers of basement parking (plus an extremely useful set of storage rooms). When I’ve looked at these I imagine construction starts by digging a gigantic hole and pouring a lot of concrete to make the car parks, then putting the building on top. You rarely see this in the UK. Most apartment blocks there have a ridiculously undersized surface car park and residents who don’t have their own space are expected to park on the streets.

I have heard various excuses for this. Apparently parking cars at street level is safer, as criminals have to operate in full view of everyone. Which British criminals appear to do anyway, so this is a stupid idea. Other people mumble about the water table or proximity to a river. I don’t buy this, either. There is an underground car park in Annecy which spirals downwards into the ground for at least a hundred metres, possibly more. It is located right beside a canal that leads to the lake some 100m away. The car park in Bordeaux pictured above is about 200m from the river. Proximity to water and geology doesn’t seem to be much of an impediment to building underground car parks in France.

My guess is that underground car parks (both municipal and residential) require specific civil engineering skills that British construction firms lack, and they cost money. British councils and developers being what they are, they will use every excuse in the book to avoid spending money on a quality job. If there is a corner to be cut they will do so, the consequences down the track be damned. So a developer will seize on any reason not to build an underground car park if they can get away with a strip of tarmac instead. It’s not like they can’t flog the apartments for a king’s ransom anyway. Continue this for a while and soon you’ll not be able to find any contractors who have the skills and experience to do build them anyway. And here we are.

I’ll wrap this up by saying French civil engineering is extremely good, and I could cite many examples in support of this statement. I may return to this topic in future.

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59 thoughts on “French v British Car Parking

  1. Never knew my degree in surveying and town planning would come in handy….

    Most urban areas in the UK operate a 10% occupancy:carpark space ratio for newbuild offices- so if you have a 200 desk carpark, you’ll be doing well to get 20 spaces for that new block you are planning. This restriction doesn’t apply to buildings you refurb, so a revamp of an old block (often including change of use from office to domestic) will get you a better set of carparking spaces. Many office buildings went through this refurb/conversion in southern british towns in the early 200’s, when office space was surplus (and valued at GBP10 psqm), and residential values were high and accelerating.

    For new build projects, then, the cost of the engineering to do underground carparks (which is more than the strip of tarmac, but probably a lot less than the premium offices with car parking) is not the main factor. Its the planing regulations.

    For non-urban locations, the planning restrictions don’t apply (as they exist to force people from cars onto public transport), but there space isn’t at a premium, so why do the digging? Just do a block paved carpark, and make the thing look a little villagey.

  2. Its the planning regulations.

    Which the developers have no interest in challenging, and provides them with the handy excuse to shrug their shoulders.

  3. @Tim- unless it’s changed, it’s government set policy – i.e. There’s no ability for LA planning officers to vary.

  4. Careful there knocking UK civil contractors, many of the world’s best shaft sinkers come from Mud Island. Deep shafts in congested spaces, water charged and permeable ground conditions were all done to the highest standard and quite often pioneered by British engineers and constructors.

    It may well be that it is not as prevalent these days as the UK is “fully developed” and has relatively small infrastructure budgets so to speak but in their hey day they were up there as the best in the world. There are still some world class projects taking place like the Cross City Tunnel, but it doesn’t have the market size of developing areas.

    http://www.brunel-museum.org.uk/brunel-museum-makes-an-entrance-with-new-underground-venue/

  5. Bastard,

    There is enough cooperation and communication between developers and government that pressure could be brought on the latter if the former wanted it. They don’t, because it’s hard to do and expensive, and blaming government regulations is an easy cop-out. Developers are always lobbying government on other issues, just on this one they have no incentive to.

  6. I live in South East London. I never understood or sympathised with NIMBYism until I bought a house and became vested in the neighbourhood. Now I have a NIMBY membership card. The fact is that much development is done with only token consultation with the population (what’s wrong with actual referenda? There is no excuse in the internet age). The green anti-car agenda (wider pavements most recently) leads to ever increasing congestion. Don’t these fools realise that the car based society is a step forward in human advancement; not backwards? There is also a drive to increase population density. Combine top down directives, with regulations that frustrate market solutions to the resulting problems, and you have a nightmare. Whilst ostensibly the UK is meant to be relatively free and democractic, it often seems to me that things like this are done much better elsewhere, in Europe at least.

  7. UK planners hate cars, and people, as a matter of ideology. They are not about to create any requirement that improves people’s lives or ease their ability to access dreadful motor vehicles.

  8. Funny how it is something I have always wondered about. People always complaining that space in the UK is at a premium because it is a small island, but they build new buildings with half the space used for car parks. Put the cars underneath (it doesn’t even have to be full height as I’ve seen in Germany the use of ramps to stack 2 cars thereby reducing the depth required) and you can have a bigger building and more flats to sell. It seems to be a waste to me but there you are.

    I’m sure developers are not pushing so hard, but I’m also pretty sure that local authorities have a non explicit anti-car agenda and will not modify planning regulations for that reason.

  9. Careful there knocking UK civil contractors, many of the world’s best shaft sinkers come from Mud Island.

    There will be some excellent ones, but they’re not working on residential buildings. I don’t think the highways departments are up to much, either. We seem to have awful problems with bridges.

  10. I’m also pretty sure that local authorities have a non explicit anti-car agenda and will not modify planning regulations for that reason.

    Yes, this too. Greenies in the council will oppose any slackening of regulations to accommodate car parks because it would “encourage car ownership”. Thank God I live in France where, weird though they sometimes are, they do get some things right.

  11. In France, most modern apartment blocks come with two or three layers of basement parking (plus an extremely useful set of storage rooms).

    They figure large in the second part of my saga set in Paris, 12th arrondissement, where there are plenty of them, quite near the river, not far from rue de Bercy and behind, a white collar/dormitory area.

    As you say, the engineering standard over here has plummeted – it’s what you can get away with I suppose but modern built fabric is poor, especially where I live now with its paper thin walls.

  12. “There will be some excellent ones, but they’re not working on residential buildings. I don’t think the highways departments are up to much, either. We seem to have awful problems with bridges.”

    All true but just saying that the expertise and know how is/was there for the sake of the story.

    On roads and bridges in the UK I built quite a few of them as a young lad with Morrisons, which was great as I got to see a lot of Scotland as well.
    Got on the Kylesku Bridge as a cadet, it was out there, still is. Built many A class roads as well, mostly on the A96, fairly good standard, this is way back in the eighties mind you.

    I have done many bridges in differing locations and worked for Main Roads Queensland as well, but the best one was the Hegigo Pipe Gorge Bridge, in the PNG highlands it only jye got pipped as the world record highest span. Rob Mowat the PM was a cranky as fuck Englishman. Transport between the abutments was by chopper, Russian pilots flying on visuals, supervised the manufacture of the A frames in Brisbane as well. So many tales about the construction effort here.

    Many of us that were on that project have kept in touch with each other after this, a mile high club of sorts.

    http://www.highestbridges.com/wiki/index.php?title=Hegigio_Gorge_Pipeline_Bridge

  13. In Bilbao, we have underground car parks in all residential blocks going back to the early 70s. The whole city centre is full of buildings 6 to 8 storeys high. You couldn’t manage if not.

    The city has public underground car parks all over the place, next to the river even, going way below the riverbed level. They renovate car parks turning them from piss-puddled dungeons for homeless vampires into sparkling clean temples which tell you how many spaces are free and exactly where they are , they put them under squares, parks…

    Hotels have them, even all the new city centre supermarkets which buy up the ground floor for the supermarket manage to have underground carparks.

    Sadly the UK is pathetic. Not only are construction standards (presumably dictated by cost considerations) pretty crap (new housing is appalling, you can hear a sparrow fart outside or in the next apartment), insufficient above ground parking or foul multi-story carparks which are a blight on the landscape do nothing to help and leave you with cars littered everywhere.

    That’s your lot.

  14. In the spirit of David Moore’s post, I recall when Sheffield got its once notorious ‘egg-box’ Town hall (twas destroyed in an apocalyptic nuclear bomb movie called Threads, also notable for showing the city’s handful of fire engines running away — as they surely would) the plans were shown at an exhibition in the city. Now this astonishingly ugly TH was built on the principle that the cars parked underneath it would each day warm the building by the heat of their recently turned-off engines. Excellent, although I am not sure it worked as intended.

    More dramatically there were all sorts of bus-gates and blockages to the flow of traffic in the city at the same time save, of course, for one thin thread of twisting back streets that had been left alone and thus allow our lovely TH workers to be able to drive in to the futuristic car park planned to, er, warm their toes.

    Anyways, its all gone now and better buildings, unheated by cooling engines, stand in the ‘egg box’ place. Funnily enough, there was hardly any bomb damage required to take it down. Oh yes, it also had a garden on its roof with a restaurant for the TH workers though I believe the rain seeped through the well-trimmed lawns and made life a dripping hell in the offices underneath. Planners and architects… you gotta love ’em.

  15. twas destroyed in an apocalyptic nuclear bomb movie called Threads

    It was a TV series, and a good one. I have it on my computer.

  16. I once had a basement flat; it always felt slightly damp. I said as much to an older friend; he pointed out that Dutch basements were snug-as-a-bug. He assumed the problem was the traditional incompetence of British builders.

  17. Just to add: I don’t remember having been subjected to incompetent electricians or plumbers, but we have suffered from incompetent joiners and decorators. It’s just tradition, innit?

  18. Alternatively, if you live in a high density area, own a motorbike and use Uber a lot.

    First World problems. Just sayin’.

  19. Took the family on European trip a few years ago on Eurail, highly recommend the 1st class great value, you get a table, space and can sit and talk to each other and look out the window and then you are right in the middle of the city, no airport bollocks. We done the Paris London train as well. So after Rome, Venice, Munich, Paris the first sight we get of Mud Island is all these dank, dystopian, chavy, matchbox row houses complete with water stained cladding and black satellite TV dishes bolted such that it was producing rust stains that were running down the walls.

  20. The problem is the ascendancy of the Car Haters: ever seeking an opportunity to punish the driver whether by constructing parking spaces too narrow for cars and charging extortionately for the privilege in the most minor market town; taxes; the lack of will to keep traffic moving, converting the M25 into a parking lot after every minor shunt, the farce of bottlenecks that is the A303; the use of traffic circles ensuring any stoppage on one route will jam all(Chiswick roundabout anyone?). This was the deciding factor in deciding not to remain in the soggy isle despite proximity to family on retirement, getting into my car was a miserable experience.

  21. Bardon: best to keep away from Mud Island. You delicate types ought to be protected from all that is bad about the UK. Perhaps going to, or remaining on, Poisonous Spider Continent would be better for you?

  22. Underground car parks are not common in the UK, but they’re not as rare you think; there are/were (at least one) in Brighton, two in the City of London (one near Moorgate, t’other at Finsbury Square), one I think in Eastbourne, and there are two at Canary Wharf, so those two were only built in the Eighties. There are also several multi-storey car parks with at least one level below ground, two in Tunbridge Wells alone. I can also think of several newish apartment style developments with underground parking.

    Actually, I’m beginning to think that it’s more common than I thought.

    So, you’re wrong. Sorry.

    I don’t think you can really completely discount local geology as factor, and the actual construction skills required seem to be the same as for above ground. The specialist skill these days appears to be the tanking (waterproofing), which is expensive, and seems to be easy to get badly wrong without a proper site survey. Basement/cellar construction is in the building regs.

    I think that what happened was economics after the industrial revolution, and the British agricultural revolution.

  23. Underground car parks are not common in the UK, but they’re not as rare you think

    Okay, I’ll rephrase. Between 1996 and 2003 (my adult life in the UK) I never saw or used one that I can recall. I’ve been in France just over 3 years and both places I inhabit has one, and pretty much every town I’ve visited has several. Perhaps it’s my memory that’s faulty, but there seem to be a lot more in France.

  24. There are more in France. Loads more. And in Austria and in Singapore.

    The UK is a dump, run by car haters and short term financial skin flints. Long term thinking is nil as people won’t pay for the extra benefit. Canary Wharf is a notable exception and is much nicer because of it. Our home in London is 400 yes away from the gleaming towers and it is marvellous to have something safe, clean and well planned in our doorstep.

  25. Ipswich (the most foward thinkinh and cosmopolitan town in the uk, evidently) has at least 2. Part of what might cause it is that inner city develooment land is used as a carpark between demolition and construction, which might alter the economics (at least thats how its done in ipswich)

  26. Sheesh, that’s only​ seven years! Less than I thought.

    So, guessing, that you finished at Manchester in 1996, but didn’t spend much time in the south east, what with being Welsh, working for Big Oil and all?

    I think my memory is playing silly buggers as well. Thinking about it, I seem to be able to recall quite a few in the south east, but fewer to the west and north. I think what may be happening is that the wholly underground ones tend to be older, closer to the older features of the town. So one in Brighton is off the seafront road, close (if you cut up a couple of one-way streets and an alleyway) to the sixties/seventies pedestrian precinct at Churchill Square. But that was originally built 50+ years ago now, and the place has changed quite a bit, so a relatively casual visitor wouldn’t necessarily come across it. So the same would hold for me the further north and west I go.

    On the other hand, you’re probably noticing the similarities between bits of France, and then the differences between those and your memory of the UK, which may make those differences seem greater.

    Hmm. Probably the availability hubristic or something.

  27. So, guessing, that you finished at Manchester in 1996, but didn’t spend much time in the south east, what with being Welsh, working for Big Oil and all?

    Almost. School in W. Sussex 1992-’96. Manchester Uni 1996-2000. Working in Manchester 2000-’03, then I emigrated. But you’re right, I was never in the SE as an adult.

    On the other hand, you’re probably noticing the similarities between bits of France, and then the differences between those and your memory of the UK, which may make those differences seem greater.

    I am guilty of that. I’m like one of those lunatic third world diaspora types who hasn’t worked out the country they left has changed in the 50 years since they left. 🙂

  28. “I don’t think you can really completely discount local geology as factor, and the actual construction skills required seem to be the same as for above ground. The specialist skill these days appears to be the tanking (waterproofing), which is expensive, and seems to be easy to get badly wrong without a proper site survey. Basement/cellar construction is in the building regs.”

    The local geology and specifically the hydrology is the number one factor in selecting the excavation method for any permanent deep excavations. Risks don’t only include the soil mechanical properties, collapse and load bearing etc but the lowering of the water table which can consolidate the ground and cause settlement and damage to the adjacent properties. In the picture in Tim’s post and if the underground car park is situated below the “square” then the risk is damage to the adjoining older buildings, the risk is dependent on ground stability ie lower risk in rock and higher risk in water charged permeable soils. I can imagine that there were huge measures taken to prevent this and monitor it during and after construction, shoring methods, diaphragm walling, soil nailing and the like, this “cost’ may well be cost prohibitive for the UK’s smaller budgets and probably over the top preservation requirements, particularly adjacent to heritage listed buildings, far cheaper and lower risk not to bother and just build a carbuncle.

    Having said that some of the most cutting edge ground stabilization techniques used on the cross city tunnel are top shelf, the lengths that they went to were very impressive as they excavated under very old and fragile historic buildings, roads and adjacent tube stations. I think it has been a very successful project in this regard to date.

  29. For once I blame geology instead of bureacrats.

    London land prices are very high, compared to e.g. Paris, Rome, Istanbul. So it woud make sense to dig deeper.

    But Paris etc are on limestone, easily cut (you can even sell the stuff if you cut it square) so these cities have huge undergrounds since 1.000 years (originally for cadavers).

    London is on clay and sandstone. OK, limestone lets in water – hence stalactites and stuff . but shorter, easier, and less risk of collapse than the geology of London.

    Admittedly, geology was the one thing I failed at O level, so correct me please.

  30. James you are correct, pity they didn’t have Wiki when you were a nipper.

    London Clay

    Engineering

    The presence of a thick layer of London Clay underneath London itself, providing a soft yet stable environment for tunnelling, was instrumental in the early development of the London Underground, although this is also the reason why London has no true skyscraper buildings, at least to the same degree as many other cities throughout the world. Erecting tall buildings in London requires very deep, large and costly piled foundations.

    London Clay is highly susceptible to volumetric changes depending upon its moisture content.[5] During exceptionally dry periods or where the moisture is extracted by tree root activity, the clay can become desiccated and shrink in volume, and conversely swell again when the moisture content is restored. This can lead to many problems near the ground surface, including structural movement and fracturing of buildings, fractured sewers and service pipes/ducts and uneven and damaged road surfaces and pavings. Such damage is recognised to be covered by the interpretation of subsidence in buildings insurance policies, and the periods of dry weather in 1976/77 and 1988/92, in particular, led to a host of insurance claims. As a result, many insurance companies have now increased the cost of premiums for buildings located in the most susceptible areas where damage occurred, where the clay is close to the surface.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London_Clay

  31. “OK, limestone lets in water – hence stalactites and stuff . but shorter, easier, and less risk of collapse than the geology of London.”

    And yes, again, you might find this surprising but most the Mid-East subsurface geology is limestone (not sand) and is also very highly water charged. I have been down some very deep sewer pits in Doha where the water ingress at the bottom is flowing that fast that it we have had to many six inch pumps running full bore just to keep up with inflows and maintain a working platform at the bottom. As you said this is not a problem structurally, as the immediate excavation face is stable and there is no risk of consolidation, or collapse of the adjacent ground either so it is purely a hazard during construction that can be managed by the various dewatering techniques and provided the eventual structure is built properly, including water stops on cold joints then it’s job done.

    Surprisingly there is a very real problem though with very hard rock including limestone (it gets hard) introduced by the excavation technique. Rock is hard to cut, if you had open slather you would use drill and blast, which is impossible now in an urban environment, so that leaves rock breakers or rotating ground engaging cutting types heads (like mining). This exaction method introduces a new hazard of vibration which once again can damage adjacent structures even if they are founded on solid rock as well, the vibration energy from the excavation effort travels up through the solid rock interface into the buildings and can damage the building itself due to harmonics. Noise nuisance from rock excavation is also an issue in leafy wealthy suburbs.

  32. Underground car parks in London. Barbican, Smithfield, Cavendish Sq, Finsbury Sq, Brunswick Sq,

  33. james

    “London is on clay and sandstone. OK, limestone lets in water – hence stalactites and stuff . but shorter, easier, and less risk of collapse than the geology of London.”

    It might be easier in France, but the huge number of basement extensions in London that are often 3, 4 levels down does indicate it’s not an engineering challenge that cannot be overcome when the value is there.

  34. Erm, all
    Thanks for the corrections.
    Still think I’d fail geography O level.
    Doha? Does the Emir give a shit?
    And surely, as an O&G man, Tim should know you need capstone (limestone) and substone (sandstone / schist, whatever) to keep the oil in so that you can get it out 400 million years later.
    By now there’s probably enough shit in London clay that you could dig it out and sell it as fertiliser.
    Maybe.
    Will be corrected again.

  35. “Doha? Does the Emir give a shit?”

    That question is a bit close to home so I will ahve to take the fifth.

  36. And surely, as an O&G man, Tim should know you need capstone (limestone) and substone (sandstone / schist, whatever) to keep the oil in so that you can get it out 400 million years later.

    Good grief, no! I’m a surface facilities man, anything that happens upstream the Xmas tree is pure sorcery. Stick to Bardon’s inputs for geological stuff.

  37. So after Rome, Venice, Munich, Paris the first sight we get of Mud Island is all these dank, dystopian, chavy, matchbox row houses complete with water stained cladding and black satellite TV dishes bolted such that it was producing rust stains that were running down the walls.

    Yeah, I notice that too. I have found myself commenting on Twitter about how grim Britain’s terraced housing looks compared to what I’m used to seeing on the continent. That’s the industrial revolution for you, I suppose.

  38. The large fairly open car park basements in Provencal France and Italy scare the crap out of me because there is significant seismic risk. Compared to Japan or California to mention two other obvious seismic regions, the thickness of the supporting pillars, not to mention my (lack of) confidence in the conformity of the building with what standards there are anyway, suggest to me that if they are subject to a big quake they’ll collapse. I may be doing (some of) the French builders an injustice but I’m pretty sure a lot of things will collapse in a decent 5.5-6.0 quake.

    One other thing I’ve noticed in both countries is how the locals will do almost anything to park for free on the street instead of paying the couple of Euros for an underground space. I simply don’t get it.

  39. Every city in Spain I have ever been to has underground carparks everywhere. This is a good thing, because you wouldn’t want to attempt to drive and park in most of their medieval street plans. Training myself to just park and pay the money rather than drive around looking for on-street parking until I have an accident has taken me some work, but I have now more or less managed it.

  40. One other thing I’ve noticed in both countries is how the locals will do almost anything to park for free on the street instead of paying the couple of Euros for an underground space. I simply don’t get it.

    I’ve noticed that, and I don’t get it either.

  41. @Farncis: if there was a heightened collapse risk due to poor quality building practice in underground car parks and the same quality problem applies to aboveground construction ie they don’t build them worse just because they are underground, then this would mean that the risk of collapse due to a seismic event is higher in an above ground structure. This would be due to the fact that underground structures are less prone to seismic damage as they are confined within the ground and cannot move independently of the ground movement and are not subject to the dynamic inertia movement amplification effects that unrestrained above ground structure are. Plus your exposure hours inside a car park are less than inside a building.

    So from an earthquake point of view, if you are wary of an underground car park in France then you should be very concerned about entering an above ground structure.

  42. Italians seem to avoid car parks in favour of the street. Go to a big supermarket or shopping centre, there will be a huge underground car park with empty spaces, yet the access roads and verges will be full of parked cars.

  43. @TN

    Perhaps reason is simpler:

    Developer does not dig down as work may be suspended for years for archeology if an old coin or bone is found.

    P

  44. @Pcar- a quite valid and very real objection to commit to a development right there.

    It’s not only archaeological items, there are cultural heritage issues as well when constructing in a formerly colonised country. Not forgetting hazardous material either, asbestos, hydrocarbons, acid sulphate soils, hydrogen sulphide and the like.

    The biggest and most frequent cause of a development delay is a change in ground conditions from that shown on the geotechnical investigation, this is very common. If you looked at the number and magnitude of civil engineering contractual disputes that have taken place, are currently under arbitration or are heading that way then its always about the adverse impact of the unforeseen change in the ground condition form that envisaged at the time of tender.

    In construction risk there is nothing more unforeseeable than something that is hidden below the ground. Even in this day and age of ground penetrating radar and seismic survey no one ever knows for sure what is down there until they expose it. The borehole is still the only cost effective method of identifying the actual type of soil/rock that is beneath the ground. The limitation here is that this borehole is only representative of the 150mm diameter extent of its excavation and borehole spacing is quite large and planned on a grid basis and is basically a hit and a miss system.

    Most civil contractors that contract to a developer will qualify their offer based on it only allowing to excavate in the material shown in the “contract” geotechnical data, any change to this material which hampers production is then deemed a Latent Condition, which triggers a contractual claim for the recovery of the damages and extension of time required to excavate this unforeseeable condition. I have been involved in many of these disputes and am running some claims in this area right now.

    Typically the buck stops with the developer as he cannot cover himself for this situation as the owner. This is compounded further as during the feasibility stage the geotechnical investigation element tends to be ill conceived and under done, sometimes not at all.

    The UK arbitrators and specialists are once again arguably the best in the world at this, I had an enquiry with one a few years ago about representing us for a ground condition claim in South Africa that was under a FIDIC contract, the chaps rate was higher than a QC and he is getting paid that.

    As noted by Pcar I suspect the UK would be far more litigious in this regard as France would be.

    LATENT CONDITIONS AND THE EXPERIENCED CONTRACTOR TEST GORDON SMITH Barrister & Solicitor* Independent, Chartered Arbitrator “Determining whether a condition could ‘reasonably’ have been foreseen habitually gives rise to the greatest difficulty of interpretation in civil engineering arbitration. The words of the sub-clause seem to defy precise analysis and it is thought that little is to be gained from analysing the works in terms of probability … It is indeed unfortunate that there is virtually no authority on the application of this difficult test.”

    https://www.i-law.com/ilaw/doc/view.htm?id=370962

  45. As carparks go the one in Liverpool 1 is pretty decent, built into the underground remains of the worlds first enclosed dock…with remaining archaeology on view.

  46. A late addition: I once worked (in West London) in an office where there was an underground car park, in which half the spaces were cordoned off to prevent people parking in them – the local council insisted that only half could be used, as part of their efforts to combat Climate Change.

  47. A quick scan suggests that this post has had the highest number of comments of any other recent post.

    That is: a post on car parks. And the comments are mostly about cultural, engineering and geological aspects thereof.

    You may have captured a niche market in the internet.

    Suggested improvement: pictures of posters’ wives posing alluringly in car parks.

  48. A quick scan suggests that this post has had the highest number of comments of any other recent post.

    Heh! I did notice that. It always comes as a surprise which posts generate the most comments, they are often on the most unlikely of topics. Car parks: who’da thought?

  49. Perhaps I’ve been lucky, but two flats I’ve bought have good underground parking. One is in London right on the Thames (E1 – not far from Limehouse DLR station). The other is in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia, which has four parking levels below ground. Fairly typical of the area I believe.

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