Front gardens: designing

Do driveways cause flooding? Heavy rain events have shown that paving over gardens is a major factor in causing severe flooding. In 2007 alone, the associated damage was £3billion in the UK. Laws are now in place that require most non-permeable, traditional driveways to have planning permission - whether new or replacement. So here is our guide on how to reduce paving and increase planting.

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The terraced house is a familiar feature of many of our towns and cities, but its front garden is small and needs careful planning to maximise space. To keep the hard surfaces to a minimum, create just two paved tracks to take the car wheels. The rest of the area can be covered with permeable plastic membrane to suppress weeds, then topped with gravel. By simply cutting through the membrane, you can then grow plants that will spill over the gravel.

Quick facts

By ensuring front gardens contain a balance of hard landscaping and
plants, we can:
  • Prevent flooding by soaking up summer storm rains
  • Provide homes to up to 260 species of wildlife (insects, birds etc)
  • Absorb pollutants, helping us breath easily
  • Keep us cool in summer and help insulate homes in winter
  • Make us feel good to come home – it’s scientifically called ‘restoration’


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The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.