Millions of UK front gardens have been turned into parking spaces, according to recently published research.
Around seven million homes now have their front gardens buried under concrete. That amounts to one-third of the gardens in the country and almost 100 Hyde Parks.
The RAC Foundation report, Spaced Out: Perspectives on Parking Policy, shows that paved plots have doubled in the last couple of decades with 30% in 2011 compared to just 16% in 1991.
Rising concrete conversions are attributed to an inflation of car ownership, growing from 21m in 1991 to 28.5m in 2011. A further increase of 32m is estimated over the next two decades.
“On the face of it parking is an inconsequential act. But it is a hugely emotive topic and providing adequate parking in the right place at the right price is a big challenge for planning authorities”, says Prof Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation.
“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.”
Further concerns have been voiced by the Committee on Climate Change, who believe the loss of urban green space will have environmental drawbacks.
“Paving over surfaces can also intensify the urban heat island effect, potentially magnifying the effects of heatwaves in cities”, said the Committee spokesperson.
With less ground to soak into rainwater from storms will also increase the danger of flooding in urban areas.
It also presents a threat to local wildlife according to the London Wildlife Trust who found that the capital city was losing 7,410 acres of land per year – the size of two-and-a-half Hyde Parks.
Carlo Laurenzi, the Chief Executive of the Trust, explained: “Front gardens are an incredibly valuable wildlife resource in any urban environment and in London gardens represent 24% of land.”
Parking spaces are at a premium in urban areas of the UK. The English Housing Survey found that cars at stationary for 96% of their lives, with 80% of that accounting for vehicles parked at home.
Councils across England bring in almost half-a-billion pounds of revenue from parking-related charges.