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Gardens being uprooted in favour of driveways and artificial grass, new research reveals

Posted: 27/07/22

Article from Aviva website and written by Aviva


  • A quarter (25%) of homeowners with outside space have turned some of their garden into a driveway
  • One in ten (10%) has replaced their garden’s natural lawn with artificial grass
  • More than half (57%) acknowledge making changes to their outside space may have an impact on the environment

A quarter (25%) of homeowners in the UK with outside space have turned all or part of their garden into a driveway and a further 17% are planning to make this change, according to new research by Aviva.

Worryingly, one in seven (15%) has changed part or all of their garden into a driveway with hard, non-permeable material, such as tarmac or paving, which doesn’t allow water to travel through to the soil beneath.

It’s not just driveways that are proving popular. One in ten (10%) homeowners with outside space has replaced at least some of their garden’s natural lawn with artificial grass and a further 29% plan to or would consider making the swap.

Asked why they’ve made these changes, 31% said they didn’t want the upkeep of natural lawn or gardening while 27% wanted to park their car off the road.

However, there are signs that some homeowners are bucking the trend by choosing to re-wild their outside spaces.  One in eight (12%) respondents has replaced part or all of their garden with a wildflower meadow and seven per cent (7%) have gone even further by turning their driveways into a garden with plants and flowers.


Parking takes priority over environment

But it seems for some of us, having somewhere to park our cars takes precedence over immediate environmental concerns. Although more than half (57%) of homeowners surveyed agreed making changes to their outside space may affect the environment, 39% thought it was more important to have off-road parking than consider any environmental impacts.

Almost three in five homeowners (58%) thought making changes to their outside space had no impact on flooding in their area. This is in spite of the fact that one in five homes in the UK is at risk from surface water or flash flooding, according to Aviva flood mapping data. This seems to be borne out in the research too, with 15% of people surveyed saying their homes had flooded in the past, yet only 16% considered the history or possibility of flooding in the area when buying a new home.


Lack of awareness about planning guidelines

To help alleviate the problems caused by replacing front gardens with driveways, Government guidance for homeowners was introduced in 2009 on the use of materials. However, it seems awareness of this guidance remains low. Despite being in place for several years, only 14% of homeowners who had made a replacement were aware of the Government guidance on permeable surfaces for front gardens and only 18% sought planning permission when making changes.


Aviva has put together advice for homeowners who are considering making changes to their outside space:

  • Choose more permeable materials – using permeable materials – that allow rainwater to soak through to the soil below – can help reduce the risk from flash flooding. These include gravel or block paving.
  • Check if you need planning permission – if you want to change an area of more than five square metres using non-permeable material, such as tarmac, asphalt or concrete paving.
  • Consider making partial changes – having a border around your drive or installing a drain will help rainwater to run off during heavy downpours, reducing the flow of water into street drains, and may help stop water from entering your home.
  • Include a wildflower or natural area in your garden – even the smallest area of wildflowers or more natural planting can attract wildlife and help encourage bio-diversity in your garden.
  • Collect rainwater – consider installing a water butt or other rainwater collection device to prevent water from overwhelming drains.  Plants and wildlife prefer rainwater to tap water too.
  • Check your home’s flood risk – even if your home is nowhere near a river or the sea, it could still be at risk from flooding, so check your home’s status with the Environment Agency.


For more information and a link to the original article, please click here.