Flood waters rising in the front yard

The flood waters that paralysed various parts of England in the summer of 2007 gave rise to a short but intense media graze over the causes. Climate change in its broadest sense was skewered as the chief culprit. As we climbed guiltily on board our 10 quid easyjet flights, many must have wondered what they could do about it. It's unlikely that un-concreting their front yards would have occurred to the guilt-ridden sky-riders. But that is exactly what some are suggesting. A London Assembly report published in September 2005, "Crazy Paving: The environmental importance of London's front gardens", claimed homeowners across the capital have paved over an area equivalent to 22 Hyde Parks to give them somewhere to put their vehicles. The growing tendency to cover front gardens means rainwater has no way of naturally seeping into the ground. Instead, it is channelled into the drainage system, which is already under pressure, increasing the risk of flooding during heavy rain. According to the London Assembly report, two thirds of the capital's front gardens are already partially covered by paving, concrete or gravel. A year earlier West London Friends of the Earth set up a campaign known as Front Gardens Matter drawing attention to the effect this was having, including, increased risk of flooding especially flash flooding, increased levels of pollution of local watercourses, increased air pollution (particulates), a dirtier environment, increases the local temperature, the effect on the diversity of plant and animal life, and the increased noise from traffic and other sources, especially at ground floor level. As is often the case, the balanced front yard - which might include a gravelled space for car & bicycle parking TOGETHER with more plants AND more effective recycling storage – is most likely to pave the way to the future of front yards. After all, nothing is set in stone.