What is a Parking Access Control System and how does ANPR help?

In the past, car parks typically had in-person access control, and while a few car parks are still managed this way, effective modern parking access control requires automation. This is where Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) comes in to its own.

The global increase in travel and traffic volumes has meant that cities in many countries experience serious parking issues. In urban areas, parking saturation occurs due to space constraints. At airports, parking space reservation is a necessity for many travellers. These problems have increased the need for parking reservation and access control systems, and efficiently managing vehicle access is one of the challenges parking operators face.

The global increase in travel and traffic volumes has meant that cities in many countries experience serious parking issues. In urban areas, parking saturation occurs due to space constraints. At airports, parking space reservation is a necessity for many travellers. These problems have increased the need for parking reservation and access control systems, and efficiently managing vehicle access is one of the challenges parking operators face. In this article we explain how ANPR can help solve many of the challenges of parking access control. 

Vehicles stopped in a box junction - ANPR parking control

Automated parking access control systems are used on parking sites globally. Automated ticketed or wireless barriers and number plate scanning are common ways of using technology to control access.

Industry sectors that need vehicle access management include transportation, retail, local authorities, hospitality, leisure, and recreation. Controlling access to parking spaces applies to on-street/off-street sites, valet parking, automated parking sites and more. 

Advances in technology have enabled the problems of managing parking access control to be solved with automated technology solutions.

Access Control for Parking

There are common access control challenges parking operators experience, which includes

  • Knowing which vehicles and drivers are using their parking site.
  • Stopping abuse like tailgating, where more than one car enters the site under one authorised access.
  • Efficiently opening and closing barriers and maintaining traffic flow.
  • Issuing access cards, permits or passes.
  • Creating and applying time-based access rules.

Automated access control systems are now used in most large parking facilities to overcome these challenges. 

Parking Access Control Technology

ANPR Access Control

Another automated access control solution is licence plate recognition, combining Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras and automatic entry barriers. Authorised vehicles are identified by licence plate recognition, and then barrier access is given automatically.

ANPR access control is commonly used by parking operators that have high traffic volumes at their sites. This type of access control is also ideal for commercial or retail sites where suppliers frequently visit using different vehicles. 

RFID Access Control

Another example of parking access control technology is wireless access devices. Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) cards and readers can be used to provide drive-up access to parking locations. Wireless RFID is similar technology to that used in contactless credit cards. 

The different types of RFID are ideal for different operator use cases:

Goal: drive up and use touch card access.

Solution: High-frequency RFID allows drivers to touch an access card on a barrier reader at a distance of 1-2 inches (5cm).

Goal: drive-through access.

Solution: Ultra-high Frequency (UHF) RFID allows vehicles to drive up to a barrier reader and open it from a distance of 10 feet (3m).

Goal: allow trucks to automatically gain access to commercial sites.

Solution: Active RFID allows vehicles to access a site by automatically opening a barrier from a distance of 300 feet (90m).

Zatpark Parking & Enforcement Platform

ANPR Security Access Control

In 2022, the UK Office of National Statistics (ONS) reported that over 360,000 vehicle crimes occurred, a 7% increase over the previous year. In 2019 the FBI reported that 4.1% of all crimes against persons in the US occurred in parking locations or garages.

ZatPark offering an ANPR parking management system

Some large parking sites can be in isolated locations with limited in-person surveillance. This means it’s essential that parking operators manage the risk of crime on these higher-risk sites.

Common crimes committed on parking sites include:

  • Vehicle damage.
  • Car and automobile theft. 
  • Vandalism and property damage.
  • Violence and assault.

To prevent crime on their sites, parking operators can use a combination of physical and technological security strategies, including 

  • Slowing vehicles down with traffic-calming measures.
  • Frequent patrols by staff.
  • ANPR cameras and integrated automatic barriers.
  • Ensuring lighting is high quality so that CCTV video surveillance can identify suspects.

Good security practice requires layered security strategies to prevent external and internal crimes such as theft by dishonest staff.

ANPR Access Control for Authorisation

Zatpark Parking & Enforcement Platform

Many parking sites use allow lists to register vehicles, giving them permission to park. Vehicles authorised to use the parking site will have their number plate added to the allow list. This means on-foot parking officers or ANPR cameras can identify vehicles authorised to park.

Managing allow lists can be labour-intensive when not automated. Parking management systems that offer automated allow list management or easy manual entry improve access control efficiency.

ANPR Access Control for Occupancy

Managing occupancy is all about availability and demand and this is made so much easier using a technology solution.

To manage parking occupancy, you need to know your parking space capacity, the number of spaces in use, and the number of spaces available. A parking access control system can help with this. Using integrated systems that automatically update the occupancy information and provide real-time space availability status gives the operator full visibility of their site activity.

For example, the management system can maintain the allow list of authorised vehicles, or a list of specifically allowed spaces within the parking site. These lists can be automatically monitored via an integrated ANPR camera system that scans number plates as they enter and exit the parking facility. 

Vehicle access control is commonly needed at hotels, health spas, or gyms where managers need to add staff or guest vehicle number plates to an allow list. Staff and guests then use a self-service mobile kiosk app to register their entry and exit. 

ANPR Access Control for Pricing

Parking operators need to know their occupancy levels to set their pricing tariffs. An ANPR parking access control system can allow operators to define their pricing structure by analysing the occupancy reporting data it provides. Having a reporting system that provides historic and real-time data makes it much easier for operators to predict occupancy rates and set tariffs accordingly. 

Zatpark Ticketing Integrations

Price setting is not the only way a management system can support occupancy control. At an airport, a parking operator’s access control system gives them full visibility of occupancy levels over time. This allows them to predict traffic volumes during busy periods, such as during school holidays. This helps them ensure steady traffic flow around the airport.

Similarly, a local authority may need to maintain traffic flow through a busy shopping centre car park during the Christmas shopping period. They can predict and target occupancy levels based on the information their parking management system gives them.

Parking Access Control Solutions

Without a parking access control system, parking providers will find it difficult to maintain lists of authorised vehicles and daily records of occupancy and availability. Additionally, it becomes difficult to maintain security without having full visibility of parking site activity.

Choosing the right access control solution is crucial for successfully managing parking operations. The key to success is ensuring that the access control solution features match the goals of the operator. Regardless of whether the problem to be solved is managing vehicle authorisation, site access, occupancy, space availability, or site security, advanced parking management technology can provide the solution. Zatpark ANPR integrations can help overcome all of these challenges.

How Zatpark helps

ZatPark is a cloud-based parking management service. It provides end-to-end management of parking management processes. ZatPark’s advanced back office suite integrates seamlessly with a host of third-party ANPR, appeals, and debt resolution suppliers.

Zatpark parking and enforcement platform enables:

  • Simplification
  • Efficiency
  • Control
  • Integration

Talk to us to discover how Zatpark can help you.

Zatpark Parking & Enforcement Platform

Read our case studies to see how car park management services solutions can help you

Britannia Parking

With over 25 years experience establishing and managing car parks, Britannia Parking is one of the most respected operators in the UK with a client base that includes Waitrose, The John Lewis Partnership, Liverpool Victoria, Savills and Greene King.

HX Car Park Management

HX Car Park Management Limited is the UK’s one-stop parking management company who operate nationwide and are based in West Yorkshire.

Napier Parking

Napier Parking have used technology provided by ZatPark to streamline its customer service with convenient payment and appeals options available via online web portals


NCPS core strength is to provide bespoke solutions incorporating best in breed IT systems.

North East Lincolnshire

North East Lincolnshire Council is a local authority serving 160,000 people. The Parking Service at NELC is delivered through a regeneration partnership with EQUANS Services Limited.