The World’s Most Secure Buildings: Bold Lane Car Park

September 29, 2021

Bold Lane is a popular street in the English county of Derbyshire, United Kingdom. The street is best known for having the world’s most secure multi-story car park: Bold Lane Car Park.


Operated by Parksafe Systems, several recent news reports highlighted the car park as one of the most secure places in the world. Even though competing car parks in the area are cheaper and closer to the main Derby shopping center, Bold Lane is frequently used by customers due to its outstanding security features. Constructed in the 1970s, it is open 24 hours a day and has 315 parking spots sheltered with individual barcodes, sensors, and other high-tech security equipment, including barriers that deploy if security is breached. These measures were introduced in the ’90s after the car park witnessed an increase in crime and drug use.

What makes Bold Lane Car Park in Derbyshire, UK one of the world’s most secure buildings? Read on to find out.

History of Bold Lane Car Park

On July 7, 1920, the land where Bold Lane Car Park stands today was opened as a park. Temperance Union activist Mary Shuttleworth, widow of lace magnate Henry Boden, donated it to the city. Known as Boden's Pleasaunce, the land was asphalted after WWI and then renovated in the early 1970s. The car park originally opened in 1974. The decorative wrought iron gates still stand next to the building and include the Boden's Crest and a commemoration dedicated to Henry Boden. In the 1990s, the car park became a refuge for beggars and gained notoriety as a venue for various anti-social behaviors. In 1997, there were 161 reported cases of criminal activities, including drug abuse and robberies. In the same year, Derby City Council contracted with Parksafe Systems to run the car park as a partnership in an attempt to improve the deteriorating conditions. Ken Wigley, the security systems inventor and proprietor of Parksafe Systems, agreed to pay for the majority of the installation costs in return for a percentage of the car park's revenues. After a period of upgrades, the facility reopened on January 18, 1998. Since then, no criminal activities have been reported and the car park has gained the reputation of one of the world’s most secure buildings.

Facilities in Bold Lane Car Park

Bold Lane Car Park is one of the safest, most secure car parks in the world, providing 24/7 manned customer service and CCTV for every parking bay. Located in the Cathedral Quarter area of Derby, the 315-space car park was completely renovated in 2010. The hi-tech Bold Lane multi-story car park has not seen one theft or case of vandalism in the last 23l years. This makes it extremely unique in the UK, according to its designer, Ken Wigley, an agricultural engineer who began working on the design after his car window was smashed and stereo stolen while parked in an airport car park. With all the advances in technology, Wigley believed it must be possible to design a system not relying upon CCTV or the vigilance of the attendants. As an agricultural engineer, he worked on harvesters that automatically shut down cutting blades upon detecting a potentially damaging metal object. These devices can detect something as small as a beer can and can potentially detect a car. Applying this principle to car theft, Wigley designed a sensor to detect whether a car was moved.

Bold Lane Car Park After the installation of the Bold Lane multi-story car park in Derby, car theft crimes reduced from roughly 107 a year to zero. The same design was also introduced in Lancaster a few years later. The car park design features security sensors in each bay. Once activated by the driver, the sensors set off an alarm if anyone attempts to move the car.

Drivers use their ticket and a keypad to activate their parking bay's sensor.

There is a sensor in the floor of each parking bay.

There is a sensor in the floor of each parking bay. The car park was constructed for £500,000 (USD $676,917.50) and also includes panic buttons and personal address systems on every level, over 200 CCTV cameras, and card-activated access doors.

Facts About Bold Lane Car Park

Since the installation of the car park in January 1998, Derby saw an immediate removal of all anti-social elements and zero crime. It brought considerable site maintenance savings for the city council and substantial savings of police resources. Bold Lane is primarily a shopper's car park but is located 10 minutes walk to the main shopping center. Over the years, it transformed into a household name in Derby and experiences massive growth in nighttime usage while occupancy level increases substantially every year. Some of the key features of this car park include:
  • High-tech security system
  • Extra-wide parking bays
  • State-of-the-art smart card tickets
  • Innovative pay machines with a video communications link to the control room
  • Customer friendly control room
  • “Free-bay” indicators to highlight vacant parking spaces
  • Toilet facilities with baby changing areas
  • Customer rest area with coffee machines
  • Flexible bollards throughout
  • Height restriction of 2 meters (6 feet 6 inches)
  • Turnover increased from £87,000 ($117,798.35) in 1997 to £531,219 ($719,196.16) in 2002

How Does Bold Lane Car Park Work?

At Bold Lane Car Park, motorists secure their parking bay by punching a number into a machine recognizing whether the driver has left the car park or has returned to it by linking the bay number with a ticket. While locked, a sensor under the car detects movement and a network of cameras keeps thieves at bay. Pedestrians can only gain access to the car park with a ticket issued when the car entered the car park, deterring opportunist thieves. Once activated, the bay is secured until the driver returns and puts the ticket into another machine to pay the parking fee. At that point, the bay is unlocked. The gates only open for cars to enter or to exit once the fee is paid.

What Makes Bold Lane Car Park One of the World’s Most Secure Buildings?

Bold Lane Car Park may not look too fancy from the outside, but this UK facility is one of the most secure buildings in the world. Following a wave of crime and drug abuse, the car park was fitted with a range of high-tech security equipment. Each driver gets a unique barcode ticket synchronized with their driving space. A movement sensor under each car activates if it is moved without permission and an impressive 200 surveillance cameras complete the system. According to a report published in BBC Focus, Bold Lane Car Park uses a sophisticated network including CCTV cameras, panic buttons, entry doors, and bar-coded tickets to guarantee security. The keystone is super-sharp patented sensors detecting if a parked car moves even a little when the central computer thinks it should be still. This results in a lock-down of the site.

At the entrance to the car park, the driver is issued a barcoded ticket. The barcode is scanned by a ticket machine and linked to a specific parking bay when the driver types in the bay number. This activates the specially designed motion sensor located in the ground beneath the car. When the driver returns, they may only gain entrance to the building using their ticket and, on payment of the parking charges, the sensor is turned off. The sensor detects any movement of the car and triggers an alarm process if the associated parking ticket is not marked as paid. Along with detecting the horizontal motion of someone driving the car, the sensor also checks for vertical motion, including the weight of a person entering the car. The car park is monitored by a control room operator using 200 CCTV cameras and a computerized map of the building. The operator also monitors pedestrian access and emergency buttons and has the ability to lock down all exit points. A public address (PA) system allows the operator to communicate with anyone inside the building.

After several years of evidence proving the system works, the park introduced a guarantee stating the costs of repairing any damage caused by "theft of or theft from the vehicle while secured in the car park" would be covered by Parksafe Systems. To avoid fraudulent claims, the entrance includes several CCTV cameras to record the state of the cars before they are left in the car park. Following one customer complaint about a small scratch, foam barriers were placed between the parking bays to prevent doors from opening into neighboring vehicles.

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