Page last updated at 06:04 GMT, Friday, 27 March 2009

NCPs to come up smelling of roses

NCP car park
This way for a perfumed parking experience...

Aromas such as roses, baking bread and cut grass are to be piped into "smelly" car parks more commonly associated with the stink of urine and vomit.

A survey by car park firm NCP found the smell of car parks was driving away as much as a third of potential custom.

The company is using new technology to pump pleasant smells through the stairwells of its busier sites, such as London, Birmingham, Leeds and Cardiff.

Flowers came top in their smell poll, then mint, cut grass, bread and fruit.

Bubblegum, coffee and even petrol were also considered favourite fragrances.

Fresh flowers and baked bread contain good bacteria... our smell sensors enjoy them and tell us they're good for us
James Wong, ethno-botanist

NCP chief executive Andrew Potter said: "We are committed to offering our customers a pleasant and positive experience in our car parks and we fully recognise that unpleasant smells could drive customers away.

Of the 2,000 people they polled, two in three said stairwells were the worst-smelling part of car parks, with one in three associating these areas with the smell of urine.

James Wong, an ethno-botanist and gardener, told the BBC people disliked certain smells like urine and vomit, not only because they don't smell nice but because they are harmful substances.

"Urine and vomit contact harmful bacteria that can make us ill, so our bodies reaction is to protect us from them, so your body tells our smell sensors to avoid them.

"And in the same way, fresh flowers and baked bread contain good bacteria that are good for our bodies, so our smell sensors enjoy them and tell us they're good for us."

Massage therapist Deirdre Gough told the BBC fresh bread "conjures up the idea of the kitchen and warmth, and being looked after".

"Being looked after in a car park sounds a good idea, [because] it might be a place people don't feel comfortable with," she said.

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