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The Jubilee River story (0948) - Front Gardens ripped up

17 July 2012

Millions of front gardens ripped up to ease the parking problem

The front garden is disappearing from the British urban landscape as drivers increasingly pave over their lawns to make space for parking.

Parking shortage leads to disappearance of front lawn
The Foundation’s calculations are based on a detailed analysis of housing stock figures compiled by the Department of Communities and Local Government Photo: Alamy
Concrete has replaced grass and flower beds in 3.5 million homes over the past two decades, bringing the total to seven million, according to a study by the RAC Foundation.  The study calculates that the space home owners dedicate to parking their cars could cover an area equivalent to 72 Olympic Parks.
Motorists face a shortage of on-street parking as the number of cars on the roads rises. In 1950 there were only two million cars in Britain but now there are 28.5 million. The foundation predicts that within 20 years there will be 32 million.
Cars are also getting bigger. For example the Ford Focus is 6ft wide, a foot wider than a 1968 Ford Escort. The foundation’s calculations are based on a detailed analysis of housing stock figures compiled by the Department of Communities and Local Government.

“Car ownership is set to keep on rising, but where are these vehicles going to go?” said Prof Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation.

“Unless we want to see more streets clogged up and front gardens disappear then councils need to address the matter. Ministers’ decision last year to remove the cap on parking spaces at new developments will help.

“Even so we fear councils regard parking provision as an afterthought. Unlike their legal obligation to keep traffic moving there is no law that makes them provide adequate space for stationary cars, though we would regard the two topics as inextricably linked.

“Clearly, appropriate parking provision by local authorities has to be paid for

and if charges are not levied on drivers then council tax payers will have to foot the bill.

“However, the suspicion among many that parking charges are general revenue raisers will not be dispelled by the £500 million surplus councils in England make each year.”

Last week Lord Krebs, the Government’s senior adviser on climate change, warned that the recent floods had been made worse by the number of lawns which were being ripped up to be replaced by patios and decking. While lawns allow the water to be absorbed by the soil, hard surfaces allow water to run off and build up in valleys and roads.

With street parking becoming increasingly scarce, the cost of residents’ parking permits is rising quickly, with the average annual fee reaching £96, although some councils charge considerably more, especially for a second car.

Such is the demand that many councils also have a waiting list, with one motorist in mid-Devon not receiving a permit for eight years.

It is estimated that 10 per cent of motorists now have to pay to park their car outside their home.

Parking has, as a result, become a steady source of revenue for councils. Local authorities in London made a £180 million profit from parking in 2009-10. Those outside the capital made a further £310 million.

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