The urban landscape is changing constantly and objects which were once part of life’s background scenery — from milk floats to shove-halfpenny boards – disappear almost daily. Surely the most regrettable loss, however, is beautifully kept front gardens. Nowadays, too often, these strips of land are being used for car parking. In London alone, 12 square miles — the equivalent of 22 Hyde Parks — have been concreted over in recent years.
It is a trend that has outraged television gardener, Joe Swift, who next week gives over his episode of The Great British Garden Revival series on BBC Two to the subject.
“Instead of being a thing to be proud of – somewhere to show off our gardening prowess – front gardens have become an unloved no-man’s land between the street and the front door,” says Swift. “It’s doing a lot of damage, both to the environment and to local communities.”
This casual vandalism is causing flooding. Concreting over front gardens reduces drainage by up to 50 per cent, clogging the drains with the increased volume of water and causing flash floods. As for the environment, experts agree that plants soak up pollutants from traffic, consequently, eliminating them has a detrimental effect on our air quality. Equally important, a street with concrete hard standing for cars instead of front gardens looks, frankly, ugly. Passers-by respond by using these scruffy yards as bins for fast food wrappings and other discarded junk.
What to do? It’s all very well to hark back to an Agatha Christie version of England, where every garden path was scented with roses but we are a car-dependent nation now. Some 40 per cent of households have two cars. What are we to do with them?