Keep front gardens green to mitigate flooding


As horticulturists gather for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, a Birmingham City University spatial planning expert suggests that householders keep their front and back gardens green, to help reduce flooding risks as well as achieve other environmental benefits.

Throughout the UK, the increase in householders paving over their front gardens for car parking and adding decking to their gardens, means that we are losing our green spaces at an alarming rate. These low maintenance and tidy solutions contribute to surface water flooding, as rain water runs off these spaces with nowhere to go other than our drainage systems which then struggle to cope.

Alister Scott, Professor of Environment and Spatial Planning at Birmingham City University, has a radical proposal to incentivise homeowners to keep their gardens green in an attempt to mitigate flooding risks.

"Most non-permeable, traditional driveways require planning permission – whether new or non-replacement. My suggestion is that if people are encouraged to keep their gardens green they can deliver environmental benefits and flood management services to the local authority which could be valued, leading to a pro-rata reduction in council tax. So by using a simple costing system, we might be able to incentivise people to help the local authority in much the same way as agricultural payments are made for farmers to deliver environmental benefits.

"However, if people have decking and driveways they are equally placing an increased burden on drainage systems and this should lead to an increase in water charges, thus acting as an incentive to use green space productively.

"I believe it is crucial to inform people that the individual household decisions they make, even on a garden or driveway, cumulatively can have a huge impact on surface water flooding and subsequent costs to the local authority. This area is poorly understood and consequently managed in a planning policy context. Yet if we were to encourage people to keep their gardens green let's think about the multiple benefits to us all that such actions might deliver."

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