Ealing Friends of the Earth

Greening Front Gardens

In London and many other towns and cities in Britain, more and more front gardens are being bricked, paved or concreted over. It’s mainly for car parking, but also for parking wheelie bins or because people don’t want to maintain a garden.

The rot set in in 1995 when pavement crossovers (kerb drops) were allowed as ‘permitted development’. This made it much easier to turn your front garden into a car park and drive across the pavement legally. But kerb drops remove roadside parking spaces and leave less space for on-road parking. So more people resort to parking in their front gardens, setting up a ‘domino effect’. Over a decade later, widespread flooding triggered the introduction in 2008 of regulations to restrict the amount of hard surfacing in front gardens. But these are easily got round by putting in a drainage grille – then you can cover the entire garden with concrete. There’s no interest from Government in changing these regulations, so the traditional urban front garden is pretty much a lost cause.

So the question becomes: how can we make the urban front garden car park green and sustainable, rather than hard, ugly and damaging to the environment and the community?

Ealing’s Local Agenda 21 Front Gardens Project has teamed up with the Royal Horticultural Society to demonstrate how a totally hard surfaced front garden can be turned into a green and sustainable space while still having 2 cars parked on it. We recruited a household in a part of Greenford (Portland Crescent, off Mansell Road) where the vast majority of houses have cars parked in their front gardens. Working with a local garden designer (Caro Garden Design in Hanwell) and the householders, we created a design which maximises planting and soft surfaces. A landscape company (Oakley Landscapes Ltd. In East Sheen), together with volunteers, did the work. All labour was given for free.

The project was completed on 30 March 2017. Each stage was filmed and photographed and will be available on the Ealing’s Front Gardens Project and RHS websites in due course, as will the garden design and list of plants used, plus a series of instructional films on the different aspects of the restoration. The established garden will be filmed again in June/July.

Christine Eborall

After. Click image to see video