THE first-ever survey of private car parking in Reading has started as leaders attempt to tackle congestion and poor air quality.

Reading Borough Council will be contacting businesses, asking for permission to carry out counts of vehicles in private car parks.

The authority says the town's success as a local economy has brought a 'serious challenge' when it comes to protecting the public from harmful exhaust fumes.

Councillor Tony Page, lead member for Strategic Environment, Planning and Transport, said: "This is having a real effect on the health of our residents.

"It is frightening to think that one in three vehicles on the IDR do not even stop in Reading, but instead use the town as a short cut."

While businesses are not obliged to grant access to their premises, the council is keen to get as accurate a picture as possible.

Where it cannot access a site, for the purposes of the count assumptions of parking requirements will be made based on a number of factors, including the size and location of offices

Cllr Page added: "This demand places a real strain on the town's transport network and on the quality of life and health of residents in Reading, as well those who work here.

"The challenge will only increase in the future with many thousands of new homes being built just outside the town.

"That equates to many thousands of new polluting car journeys every day, onto a road network already operating at full capacity.

"The council now has to plan ahead in order to protect the health of residents, while successfully absorbing the future growth in housing, jobs and commuting."

The parking census sits alongside Reading's biggest-ever consultation on public transport and air quality issues, which will be launched later this summer.

The council aims to deliver further improvements to Reading's transport network, including new park and ride facilities, public transport priority routes and upgrades to walking and cycling links.