Sunday, April 20, 2008

Paving of Front Gardens

a series of paved front gardens In London an area of roughly 22 times the size of Hyde Park has been lost to the paving of Front gardens. This has serious consequences for flooding not to mention house subsidence. As the ground dries beneath paving, there can be an increased risk of heave and cracking. It also increases water run-off. Where this involves lots of gardens, this can result in localised flooding and the overloading of local sewage systems. The excess sewage may then be pumped into rivers, and can lead to large scale damage to wildlife. We don’t want to lose our new friends the seahorses do we?

In the style we have come to expect from big government they are only now beginning to recognise the problem and are “thinking” about it. But the potential for new building regulations has got the RSPB worried that there will be a rush to beat any new legislation without considering how front gardens can be used for off-road car parking whilst minimising the impact.

Naughty paved front gardens may limit the availability of insects that birds need to feed their young. Recent studies have shown that a lack of insects to feed house sparrow nestlings is reducing survival rates. But with a little thought these things can be avoided:

If additional parking is needed the RSPB’s Homes for Wildlife five-point parking plan suggests:
1. Limit the area taken over by hard standing – only pave as much as you need
2. Where car movement is frequent, use matrix pavers made from recycled plastic, which can be filled with aggregate or resin-bonded gravel
3. Use reinforcing materials for areas of grass to create a durable surface for parking on. These are constructed from concrete or hard plastic to form a honeycomb structure with cells that can be filled with soil and then seeded
4. Interlocking block pavers can be laid onto a compacted mineral sub-base, permitting water to run through gaps
5. Use 'dead' space around edges, or against walls and fences to plant hedging, climbers and wall shrubs.


  1. 13 Mar 2008 : Column 399

    Hilary Benn: I recognise the issue that the hon. Lady raises. I know that there was some flooding in her constituency in January, and I am advised that it resulted from a combination of surface water and river. I gave the answer to her point in answer to the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Bone). This is about the guidance. The first issue is whether we can adequately defend an area. The second point to make is that it depends on how that is done.

    One of the very practical changes that we made when we published the water strategy recently was to withdraw the present ability of house owners to pave over front gardens with impermeable paving without planning permission. In future, if people want to concrete over their gardens in a way that does not allow the water to soak away, they will have to seek planning permission, but if they use permeable paving they can decide for themselves..

    Surface water flooding is a real problem, as the events of last summer brought home to all of us, not least in Hull and elsewhere. We have to bring together all the bodies that have responsibility for surface water flooding, and we are consulting on giving the Environment Agency an overview. Local authorities also have an important part to play. We need to think about how we develop in future so that we can build the homes that are needed and deal with the problem to which the hon. Lady draws attention."

  2. I'd like to think that taking photos of some local roads and showing residents that they look like carparking lots would be effective, but I doubt it.

    Far too many residents seem to lavish money on ornate railings and fancy window glass, yet are oblivious to the bleak look of a fully paved, frequently rubbish-strewn front 'garden'.

    If you don't care what the outside of your home looks like, why would you care about the environmental effect?

    Of course, many of the paving companies point out that it's far cheaper to simply pave over the whole area, rather than create planting areas. However, you'd think a family that can afford 3 or 4 cars could afford to make a 3x3ft flower bed, at least.

  3. I agree and add to Judith's comment - there's a prog on the box called Dragon's Den - I wonder why some enterprising "builder/landscaper" has not got in a stock of permeable blocks and other such paving? Oh! and promoted same.
    B21 how about coming out of retirement and perhaps 'we' could buy out Redbridge Council?
    It's an idea!
    The main point is that any rain-water that finds its way from a front garden path (of any kind) finds its way into the road sewerage system - so, that trickle across the pavement can be multiplied - and thus cause flash-flooding. Flash Flooding was the main cause of the 2007 floods, not necessarily the amount of rain that fell.

  4. Yes Richard, but an awful lot of harmful flooding came from the mismanagement of waterways and the building on flood plains.

    I recall reading about the history of the New Orleans area. The Native Americans of the region, although not totally nomadic, regularly moved their settlement according to the movement of the Mississippi and its powerful delta tributaries; theythought that the European settlers were crackers to build a permanent town there.

  5. Earlier on in the comments, Judith mentions the now frequent use of ornate railings to frame front gardens. Can I point out that there is a maximum height allowed for these railings? Some are perfectly within the rules and acceptable, according to the 'chacun a son gout' freedom of choice afforded to everybody in this tolerant country, but quite a few are pushing the limits and some are simply horrendous as well as illegal.
    How are the council officers going to enforce the 'don't pave your gardens rule', if they cannot (or don't want to) enforce the 'height of fences in front gardens' rules?
    If you cannot finish the main course, don't order desserts!

  6. The Council won't police this new requirement to get planning permission if you want to pave your front garden. They don't stop the plethora of Asian granny flats under planning rules in the borough so why should they do this.

  7. Perhaps they count these unauthorised "granny flats" towards achieving Ken Leavingsoon's housing targets.

  8. Perhaps somebody could ask Cllr Prince, responsible for planning, to clarify if these granny flats in the back gardens are allowed or not. I think they are, that within some parameters (height, a percentage of the area of back garden and distance from any building on the back of the house, for instance), there is nothing that can be done to stop it.
    House-dwelling building regulations don't apply because you don't built a house.
    It cannot be a separate household but nothing would prevent the residents to register (if they wished) as if they lived in the main building and then dwell in the back garden, using the same postal address, electric meter, gas meter, TV licence and phone line).
    The regulations are ludicrous and this is not the fault of the council! (That's a first for me!)

  9. Yes I beleive that is correct. It is known as "Permitted Development". Within certain parameters PLanning Permission is not required, but any contruction must adhere to Building Regulations.

  10. I am sure this B21 blog is not the right place for planning regulations discussions but I find the loop-holes fascinating.
    B21 is correct in a way but can I point out that if you built a garage, with planning permission, with the secret intention of 'residing' in it in the future, the rules for a garage are not at all the same than the rules for a dwelling fit for habitation.
    I know, I have seen it happen!