National Park City and Front Gardens

National Park City aims to make cities greener, healthier and wilder. As most people's nearest local green space, front gardens have a vital role in this.

#WhatIf we all brought life back to our streets?

We've teamed up with the Ealing Front Gardens Project who have tracked the loss of front gardens to hard surfacing, often to park a vehicle, and the effects this has on streetscapes.

Here you can find out about the multi-purpose role of front gardens, learn from the experience of the Ealing Front Garden Project, and get tips and ideas for keeping front gardens intact.

The History of the Ealing Front Gardens Project

This website includes content from the original Ealing Front Gardens Project website.

That project looked into the concreting and paving of front gardens and the consequences of doing so. It published research on the extent of front garden hard surfacing in the London Borough of Ealing, and other information about this widespread problem.

Front gardens disappearing under hard surfacing has reached epidemic proportions in the London Borough of Ealing, as in many other parts of Britain. The primary trigger was the relaxation of planning controls in 1995 by the Government, allowing kerb-drops (pavement crossovers) as ‘permitted development’. This enabled people to turn their front gardens into car parks.

The subsequent paving and concreting of front gardens has become a serious environmental and social concern. It causes flooding, water and air pollution, hotter streets, loss of biodiversity, dangers to pedestrians, increased pressure on roadside parking, destruction of green and pleasant residential roads, upset neighbours, community tensions and many other problems. Yet people throughout England can still pave or concrete their entire front garden, as long as they make a token (and often ineffective) attempt to provide rainwater drainage. We list some of the legislation here.

The Project

Since the late 1990s Ealing’s Local Agenda 21 became increasingly concerned that paving and concreting front gardens was causing many environmental and community problems.

In 2004, using a small grant from Ealing Council, the group commissioned Pene Healey Associates to conduct desk research into what was known about the problems and their extent. This revealed that there was a lot of concern and hand-wringing, but very little was known about the problems or even the amount of front garden hard surfacing that exists.

In 2005 the Ealing Front Gardens Project conducted the first ever comprehensive survey of the amount of front garden hard surfacing in an urban area in Britain. This revealed that a quarter of the borough’s 74,300 front gardens were completely hard surfaced, with no vegetation at all, and a further fifth had nearly all (90-99% of their area) hard surfaced. You can find further details on the Research pages.

In 2017, the Ealing Front Gardens Project carried out more research showing that approving a pavement crossover to allow front garden parking almost always results in the garden being completely paved over.

Such extensive hard surfacing is completely unnecessary.

Also in 2017, the project worked with the Royal Horticultural Society to turn a fully hard surfaced front garden in Greenford back to garden while still allowing parking for two cars. Further details and before-and-after pictures are here.