front garden in Chelsea
A rare front garden in Chelsea

Lack of Urban Gardens Puts More Strain on Drainage Infrastructure

The demise of the traditional front garden has not just affected the appearance of urban streets, it increases flood risk too.

Whether it was a simple lawn or an intricate collection of plants, shrubs and flower beds, there was a time when every home had a front garden. Yet today, parking spaces in the capital are such a valuable commodity, it seems that any available space has been paved over to make room for our cars.

Even for those who have not converted their outdoor space into parking, the time and effort needed to maintain a front garden is apparently something that very few people are willing to expend in the 21st century.

However, drain specialists are warning us that transformation from a green and attractive environment into a concrete jungle is not the only consequence arising from the demise of the traditional front garden. Lawns and vegetation also perform an important role in soaking up rain and run off water. Without them, London’s already strained sewer system is being put under even more pressure.

More benefits than we realise

Front gardens improve drainage, attract wildlife and produce a more attractive place to live. But the benefits go even further. Trees, bushes and other greenery can play a major role in improving a city’s air quality by reducing nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter far more than was previously realised, according to a recent report by a major science and technology journal.

It was already understood from previous research that trees and plants can improve urban air quality by removing those pollutants from the air, but it was thought to be a relatively small effect, equating roughly to a five percent drop. However, the new study suggests that if planted in the right places, plants can actually reduce them by as much as 60 percent.

Revitalising the concept

So should a front garden revival get underway? This is certainly the opinion of Cultivation Street, a national campaign aimed at supporting front gardens and community gardens in urban areas. Organisers have worked with colleges to create a series of inspirational front gardens that they hope will encourage people to do more with their outdoor space.

The idea is not so much to bring back the traditional gardens of 50 years ago, but to revitalise the whole concept of the front garden for the 21st century. This means innovative projects using new technologies such as permeable paving and clever methods of combining traditional garden features with modern day recycling and storage needs.

Community projects

The realities of day to day life cannot be overlooked, and the fact is that where gardens have been paved over and converted to parking, they are probably lost forever. There is also the fact that a large number of traditional town houses have now been converted into flats and maisonettes.

Taking these dynamics into consideration, there is a major emphasis on the concept of community gardens. These provide all the benefits of green space that the traditional garden brought, but with the added benefit of space to socialise and connect with the local community.

For those who hark back to the days of a front garden where neighbours can chat over the fence, this modern day alternative provides an even better barrier-free alternative!

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