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Council tax cut for front gardeners proposed

by Alice Wright

flood risk header

credit: Andrew Hall

An environmental expert has proposed radical financial measures to encourage homeowners to keep their gardens green in an attempt to reduce the risk of flooding.

Alister Scott, Professor of Environment and Spatial Planning at Birmingham City University, has suggested that those who cover their gardens with paving or decking should face charges, while those who keep their gardens planted should benefit from reduced council taxes.

The increase in householders paving over their front gardens for car parking and adding decking to their gardens means the UK is losing green spaces at an alarming rate. These low maintenance solutions contribute to surface water flooding, as rain water runs off the hard surfaces with nowhere to go other than drainage systems, which then struggle to cope.

Professor Scott said: “Most non-permeable, traditional driveways require planning permission – whether new or non-replacement. My suggestion is that if people are encouraged to keep their gardens green they can deliver environmental benefits and flood management services to the local authority which could be valued, leading to a pro-rata reduction in council tax.

“So by using a simple costing system, we might be able to incentivise people to help the local authority in much the same way as agricultural payments are made for farmers to deliver environmental benefits.

“However, if people have decking and driveways they are equally placing an increased burden on drainage systems and this should lead to an increase in water charges, thus acting as an incentive to use green space productively.”

The number of paved-over, plant-free front gardens in the UK has tripled in the last 10 years, from 1.5 million to 4.6 million, according to the Royal Horticultural Society’s report Greening Grey Britain, released on Monday.

Today one in four UK front gardens is completely paved over and nearly one in three front gardens has no plants.

The report also found that Londoners were the worst culprits for paving over their front gardens, with half paved-over – an increase of 36 per cent over a decade. The only region to reduce the number of paved gardens was the North-East, which boosted planted front gardens by 50 per cent.

Professor Scott said: “I believe it is crucial to inform people that the individual household decisions they make, even on a garden or driveway, cumulatively can have a huge impact on surface water flooding and subsequent costs to the local authority.

“This area is poorly understood and consequently managed in a planning policy context. Yet if we were to encourage people to keep their gardens green let’s think about the multiple benefits to us all that such actions might deliver.”

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