In most cities and towns across the UK, parking is at a premium. New houses are built with maybe one allocated parking spot and the classic terraced house will usually come with road parking (if you are lucky!). So, it’s no wonder there has been a boom in front garden paving and planning applications for dropped kerbs. But is it a good idea and what are the environmental concerns?
In 2015 the Royal Horticultural Society released figures that showed that in the previous decade the number of homes that had paved or gravelled front gardens had tripled to around 25% of all homes. They pointed out that this could increase the risk of flooding in urban areas with water running off driveways and into the roads – overwhelming drainage systems. Additionally, there was concern that natural habitats for animals and birds were being lost to paving slabs and designer driveways.
New planning laws
New planning rules were brought in during 2008 to protect the environment, but still to allow homeowners to gain the parking space they desperately needed. These new rules stated that as long as the driveway surface is permeable (allows water to penetrate) they would be allowed without planning permission. A non-permeable driveway will need to go through the planning application system, but could still be allowed if adequate drainage has been provided, such as a soakaway.
It is clear that the easiest and probably the best advice all round is to choose a driveway material that is permeable. There are a number that will improve the looks of your front garden while still allowing for water to be channelled away safely.
These are both the cheapest and easiest to lay but do require some maintenance each year. The front garden will need to be dug out to a depth of around 10 cm and a permeable membrane added to prevent weeds from making their way through. Then simply add the gravel of your choice. The gravel will need to be topped up from time to time and you’ll need to get out with the rake every now and then too.
Tarmac or concrete driveways
Surprisingly, concrete and tarmac (asphalt) are remarkably porous and will allow water to seep through the surface. As long as they are laid on the right base of sharp sand and rocks, the water can go back into the earth, making these practical driveway options perfect for most homes. They can, however, be a bit boring looking and may crack easily.
Resin bound driveways
This mix of resin and gravel can be produced in any colour and from any stone type. It is laid onto a concrete base and simply trowelled into place and will allow water to seep through easily. It is a great option if you want a designer driveway that really looks the part. Yes, it is a bit pricey – but it also lasts around 20 years.
So to avoid having to get planning permission you can choose a permeable material – but there are still ways around it. Just talk to your council first to get advice. And don’t forget to ask about the dropped kerb – you can’t use your new driveway without it.