If you’ve lived in a big city for any length of time, you probably have witnessed the steady loss of green space that is under the control of private property owners. Perhaps your neighbours, frustrated with sharing a driveway between houses (hello, Toronto), are converting postage-sized front lawns to parking spaces. Or perhaps small neighbourhood post-war cottages are being torn down and replaced with monster-sized homes and miniature-sized lawns (Vancouver, that’s you!). I’ve even seen front-lawns in inner city neighbourhoods completely paved over by lazy owners who obviously don’t enjoy yard work.
Finally, the Brits are raising the alarm:
Death of the British front garden leaves cities in peril of flooding
Traditional lawns disappear under concrete to make parking spaces
Until now the trend has provoked anger on purely aesthetic terms. But government advisers are warning that the disappearance of the suburban front garden threatens millions with far more serious consequences and could ultimately help to bring Britain’s major towns and cities to a grinding halt.
They say the loss of front lawns is exacerbating the threat of widespread flooding following thunderstorms similar to those of recent weeks. Updated advice from the Environment Agency urges home owners to ‘resist laying concrete or Tarmac over the whole’ of front gardens.
Front lawns provide a vital natural sponge for rainwater in urban areas. Without them, rain simply runs off driveways, increasing the likelihood of downpours overwhelming antiquated sewerage systems. The widespread flooding that followed the recent downpours, when millions of gallons of water were dumped on towns and cities in a few hours, offers a pointer to what will come…
The environmental concerns do not end there. The loss of sunlight-absorbing plants can intensify the ‘heat island effect’, making the centre of cities several degrees warmer than the surrounding countryside.