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Pickles’ parking plan will have a devastating effect on Britain’s streets

05th August 2013

By Rob Cowan


The government’s decision to encourage people to rent out their driveways to motorists could have a devastating effect on the quality of many of our urban streets.

Every year thousands of front gardens are paved over to make parking spaces. Large numbers of streets that have not yet been disfigured could now be caught in the crossfire of communities secretary Eric Pickles’ war with local authorities.

Under the new guidelines from the Department of Communities and Local Government, homeowners will be able to rent out a single parking space without needing planning permission. Bring Fronts Back says that the government will be positively encouraging homeowners to pave their front gardens, even though this will mean that the street in front of their house will no longer be available for parking.

Front gardens help make towns and cities worth living in. They can make walking a pleasure, promote sociability, contribute to biodiversity and reduce the danger of flooding. But they are under threat, and the government is undermining attempts to bring front gardens back.

Eric Pickles is giving government backing to the commercialisation of residential frontages. People will see this as a way of supplementing income, where before it was simply a form of personal convenience.

Many local authorities have introduced on-street parking charges in areas where commuters park near to stations. The councils’ aim is to improve life for local homeowners rather than to tax the motorist. These are the very areas where the quality of streets is already most seriously under threat: front walls are brutally knocked down, greenery is removed and front gardens are crudely paved over. Where once this might have been purely for the homeowner’s convenience to park one car, we will now see two cars or more shoehorned in to produce the maximum income.


Notes to editors

1.       Bring Fronts Back is the national campaign for front gardens.

 2.       Front gardens have more impact on the face of residential areas within our towns and cities than any other element of the streetscape. Their qualities are being eroded at an unprecedented rate.

 3.       Walking is rarely pleasant where gardens have been turned into private parking lots. It is unsafe for children if cars are reversing over the pavement into the street. The lack of safety encourages parents to drive their children to school rather than to walk. That increases the amount of traffic and the danger to the few children who still walk.

 4.       Planted front gardens absorb rainfall instead of making it run off into drains, as imperviously paved parking-lot front gardens do. Porous surfaces reduce the risk of flooding and replenish the groundwater that we depend on for water supplies. As well as being good for biodiversity, generous planting with the right shrubs and plants can help to improve the climate and air quality, and reduce the harsh visual impact of the motor car.

 5.       The front of the house and the pavement are traditionally places where neighbours greet each other. The front garden is publically visible private space; the pavement is public space; and the front garden wall divides the private space from the public space. Destroying the front hedge, fence or wall and turning the front garden into a parking lot reduces the street’s sociability and the sense of neighbourliness.

 6.       Parking on front gardens, with the consequent need for crossovers and dropped kerbs, privatises parking, reducing the amount and flexibility of parking space that is publicly available in the street.

 7.       Converting front gardens to parking spaces uglifies streets, reducing their value in the long term. Where one parking lot front garden is unattractive, the combined effect of a number of bare frontages emphasises all the disadvantages.


Contact Rob Cowan or Terry Brown at Bring Fronts Back, the campaign for front gardens:

Rob Cowan (mob: 0797 004 8554; rob@urbandesignskills.com)

Terry Brown (mob: 0759 526 8842; terry@tgb-uk.com)

Bring Fronts Back (Twitter @BringFrontsBack)


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