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For the past 20 years, England’s front gardens have been vanishing bit by bit.

The culprit is the automobile.

More households have cars and a number of them have two.

Most people do not have garages and must park on the street. The number of available parking spaces makes coming home from work or a day out challenging in our hunt for a place to park.

Another reason for the vanishing front garden is the restriction by local councils on the number of parking permits granted per household.

Therefore, the practical solution is to get rid of the front garden, guaranteeing that one will always have a place to put at least one car.

The problem with this is that, with heavy rain excess water has nowhere to go, because there is no longer any soil to absorb it.

Harry Mount, writing for The Telegraph, points out that paved-over front gardens contribute to damaging urban floods (emphases mine):

Where earth absorbs water, concrete sends it pouring into your basement. This summer, intense rainstorms produced extensive basement flooding in Walthamstow, north-east London, and Holland Park, in the capital’s west. The rain that would once have soaked into the deep earth of the front garden sloshes instead into the new subterranean cinema, leading, literally, to a perfect storm when the heavens open.

Gardening expert Bunny Guinness says that, in Peterborough, she was surprised to learn that “people in residential streets were only allowed two residents’ permits per house. That meant anyone who went over their allocation had to pave over their front garden to squeeze in another car.”

I first noticed the disappearance of the front garden when I lived in northwest London.

Now I see it in the Home Counties.

It is an unfortunate development which goes against the current ecological trend, as Mount explains:

However small your front garden is, it can accommodate a huge range of plants, as long as you don’t give in to the four-wheeled invaders.

In Wildlife of a Garden: A Thirty-Year Study, Dr Jennifer Owen described the species she has found in her garden in Leicester. In those three decades, she has counted 474 plant species, 80 types of spider, 183 bug species, 375 types of moth and 442 kinds of beetle. All in all, the retired ecology lecturer and zoology museum curator has found 2,673 different species of flora and fauna.

And that’s only the tip of the iceberg. In the average British garden, the total number of insect species is thought to be around 10,000. Pouring concrete over your front lawn, then, is tantamount to insecticide.

We might imagine the front gardens of Blighty are fairly unexotic, but we mess around with our unique legacy at our peril: in fact, thanks to our temperate climate that can accommodate northern and southern species, they are more ecologically diverse than the lushest rainforest.

Sadly, as Mount points out, the loss of the front garden is likely to increase with the use of notionally eco-friendly electric cars:

In the eternal battle between front lawns and our love of the car, it seems, the automobile is winning. And, in a strange paradox, supposedly green electric cars are killing off more front gardens than ever, with eco-conscious drivers needing to park close to their front door in order to keep their motor charged.

The green lobby have been complaining for years about the loss of our English flora and fauna.

Their championing of the electric car is partly to blame.

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