RTPI Chief Executive Trudi Elliott recently joined a panel of expert speakers and over 100 delegates gathered at the world famous Chelsea Flower Show for a special 'Front Garden Summit' to consider how we can reverse the loss of nature in our front gardens.
TV presenter, Alan Titchmarsh, chaired the panel, which also included Alex Cunningham MP, Shadow Minister for the Natural Environment; Leigh Hunt, RHS Principal Horticultural Advisor; and Andy Sturgeon, an award-winning designer.
Trudi welcomed the attention that was being given to the loss of front gardens by the RHS, and spoke of how interdisciplinary teams – including engineers, architects, planners and developers – are critical to the integration of greenery into new and existing developments. She also spoke of how proper resourcing is needed for Local Planning Authorities, in order to both develop and enforce planning policies which support the use of natural solutions and permeable surfacing all aspects of the built environment.
The discussion formed part of the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Greening Grey Britain campaign, which aims to encourage the replacement of hard, 'grey' surfaces in front gardens with permeable landscapes and plants. Introducing the summit, RHS Director General Sue Biggs said that over three million front gardens have been completely paved over since 2005, with seven million more partially paved. She noted that the increase in impermeable front gardens can increases the risk of surface water flooding in urban areas, while the loss of greenery has a negative impact on biodiversity and can exacerbate the 'urban heat island effect'.
Speaking about the role of planning, the Rt Hon Greg Clark MP, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), urged for a primarily voluntary approach to greening instead of changes to blanket regulation. He did however commit to a review of planning rules around permitted development rights for front gardens, and spoke about how Neighbourhood Plans and the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) can be used as complementary tools for reversing the loss of front gardens.
Watch the panel discussion.