Q. I'm thinking of converting my front garden into parking space. Can I just go ahead and do it?
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A. The short answer is No. Of course, you are perfectly at liberty to knock down your own garden wall and flatten your front garden if you want to, but you need council permission to drive your car backwards and forwards across their pavement - and that depends on your willingness to pay for a council-approved contractor to insert a dropped kerb and reinforced crossover.
In any case, many councils are now refusing permission for dropped kerbs in all but the most exceptional cases, on the perfectly understandable grounds that there are already far too many of them. After all, every new dropped kerb effectively eliminates one more parking space on the street itself – thereby making the problem even more acute for everyone else.
Besides, the dropped kerb is only part of the problem. I said at the beginning that you are perfectly at liberty to flatten your own front garden – and so you are. But under new rules that came into force almost exactly a year ago, you can’t concrete it over, or have it paved, without planning permission. The same applies to patios and terraces.
Why? Well, there is growing concern about the progressive loss of green spaces in cities and towns, and the increased risk this brings of surface water flooding. In London alone, it has been calculated that fully two thirds of all front gardens have disappeared under concrete or something similarly impervious in recent decades – an area apparently equivalent to 22 Hyde Parks! Wherever this happens, it drastically reduces the extent to which rainwater can soak away naturally into the ground. Instead, it collects rapidly on the surface, before pouring into already seriously over-stretched sewage systems.
There is a way round this, of course. You can use special porous bricks, or gravel, or paving slabs with large gaps to allow the water to soak through.
But you know what? At the end of the day I’m not sure that the game’s worth the candle. In fact all in all (unless, of course, yours is a specially deserving case), I reckon you’d probably be better off keeping your front garden – and taking your chances on parking in the street, like everyone else.