Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Vice President Alan Titchmarsh volunteered to buy, plant and maintain urns of plants outside Number 10 Downing Street in order to raise the profile of front gardens on what he described as the ‘greyest frontage known to man’.
Speaking at the first ever RHS Greening Grey Britain Front Garden Summit, Mr Titchmarsh lamented the loss of front gardens and challenged the audience of horticulturists, national and regional politicians, public policy figures, planners and engineers, to work together to halt the destruction of environmentally and socially important green spaces across the country.
Responding to Mr Titchmarsh’s Downing Street offer, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Greg Clark MP, who was speaking at the event, promised to tell the Prime Minister about the suggestion, before adding that he’s sure the Prime Minister would be thrilled to hear of the offer.
The Front Garden Summit represents an escalation in the charity’s ongoing Greening Grey Britain campaign to revive the nation’s front gardens and encourage the replacement of hard, grey surfaces with plants.
New research commissioned by the RHS found that only 10% of the 2,067 respondents said growing plants in their front gardens was an activity in which they would like to get involved.
This finding, combined with data showing that despite regulation designed to limit the use of impermeable surfaces being in place, three times as many front gardens have been paved over compared with 10 years ago, means that there is a real need for decisive action to be taken.
The scale of the challenge was highlighted by RHS Director General Sue Biggs, who explained that since 2005 more than three million front gardens had been completely paved over, and that more than seven million had been partially paved.
She went on to describe how the loss of these green spaces increased the risk of flash flooding in urban areas, as water could not drain off at a controlled rate. She explained how they contributed to the reduction of plant and wildlife biodiversity, and that they increased the urban heat island effect, as concrete retains heat during the day and releases it at night, leading to increased urban temperatures.
During the event, which was attended by more than 100 people, the audience heard of the many health and wellbeing benefits of front gardens, while the Secretary of State highlighted the social importance of front gardens.
‘Front gardens, unlike many back gardens, aren’t just permeable to rainwater, but to social interaction. So when we lose them, we don’t just lose greenery, but a bit of our humanity.’
GREG CLARK MP
Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government
As the event drew to a close Mr Clark committed to asking his officials to review the rules on the use of permeable paving in order to assess how well they’re working and whether they need to be improved.
The RHS Greening Grey Britain campaign aims to harness the power of the public to turn 6000 grey areas green by the end of 2017.
Click here to find out more about the RHS Greening Grey Britain campaign.
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