If you take a walk down most suburban streets it becomes painfully clear that our front gardens are drowning under a rising tide of concrete, and that tide shows no sign of ebbing.
Our gardens make up a huge area of London’s land. When GIGL counted gardens, they found that London has 3.8 million garden plots spread across 2 million dwellings, covering a surprising 24% of Greater London. Front gardens make up 25% of all gardens by area.
Things are changing. Over the 8.5 years of their study GIGL found that the hard surfacing in London’s gardens had increased by 25% and the green cover had reduced by 12%.
The English Housing Survey (2011) showed there is great potential for almost everyone to have impact on their environment, as 84% of dwellings having some form of private space. Unfortunately, almost a third of properties (31%) now have a front plot almost totally covered with hard landscaping. This number has rapidly increased from just 21% that were mostly hard landscaping only ten year’s previous.
This change has been across the board, affecting all types of ownership including owner-occupied, private rented, local authority and housing association properties. The biggest change was seen in private rented homes, where 39% of properties now had most of the front plot hard-landscaped. Landlords want low maintenance, and regularly moving tenants have little reason to invest in the spaces around their home.
The RHS found the same issue. Their 2015 survey showed that London was the worst place in the country for paving over front gardens. Almost half of all front gardens are now paved over; a 36% increase in ten years. London also had the biggest reduction of plant cover with five times as many front gardens with no plants compared to ten years ago.
It isn't always concrete that pushes out the green. In 2014, The Buying Agents reported that 25% of the houses they bought in Fulham now had artificial grass! It’s easy to maintain and looks neat, but removes all the varied plant life that smaller Wild Londoners love to nibble and crawl through.
The Living Places Awards Living Gardens category will be a major contribution towards turning the tide and making London a greener, healthier and happier place for everyone.