THOUSANDS more cars are owned by people across Dorset than a decade ago bringing the total to nearly half a million, new figures show.

Entire communities are facing little choice but to use a car, according to the RAC, which says drivers feel public transport "simply isn't practical or doesn't meet their needs" in many areas of the country.

Figures from the Department for Transport reveal there were 196,012 car registrations for addresses in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole in June this year, an increase of eight per cent.

It means there is one car for every 1.6 adults – the average for Britain is 1.7.

In the Dorset Council area there were 220,296 car registrations, representing an increase of nine per cent.

The rise reflects the national picture which has also seen increases in local authority areas with the highest proportions of deprived neighbourhoods.

Across Britain, car ownership has risen 11 per cent from 2010.

According to the Bank of England, personal contract purchase plans account for one in five new cars and the rise in popularity of these finance schemes that avoid high upfront costs may be contributing to the rise in ownership.

RAC’s Report on Motoring this year found 68 per cent of people said a car was essential for shopping and 59 per cent for meeting with friends and family elsewhere in the country.

Spokesman Rod Dennis said: “Even before the pandemic, drivers told us they were becoming more, not less reliant on their cars.

"It’s easy to see why. As well as the obvious benefits a car brings for families in particular, many drivers have felt for a long time that public transport either simply isn’t practical or doesn’t meet their needs, with services often seen as too expensive and running too infrequently.

"This is particularly the case outside larger towns and cities, where entire communities often have little choice but to use a car, and could help explain why car ownership is rising in many parts of the country."

Walking and cycling charity Sustrans says there is a risk people will be locked into car dependency unless councils provide viable alternatives by making walking and cycling safer for everyday journeys.

Policy officer Daniel Gillett said: “Car ownership and use is principally associated with income, but other factors, such as distance and access to everyday services, public transport provision and how safe it feels to walk and cycle locally, also play a role in whether people choose to buy or use a car."

The figures from the DfT show that there were 32 million cars registered across Britain in June, up from 28 million in 2010.

The DfT says it is investing £27 billion into its road network over the next five years.

The department is also promoting the use of ultra low and zero emission vehicles in support of the Government's commitment for net zero carbon emissions by 2050.