Council tax cut would incentivise householders to keep their front gardens green, says professor

A spatial planning expert has called for a reduction in council tax for householders who keep their gardens green rather than pave them over.

His radical proposal follows the launch on Monday of the RHS' Greening Grey Britain report which calls for the reversal of the trend in paved-over front gardens which has seen the number of plant-free gardens triple in 10 years from 1.5 million to 4.6 million, the society said.

Alister Scott, professor of environment and spatial planning at Birmingham City University said the increase in householders paving over their front gardens for car parking and adding decking to their gardens is contributing to surface water flooding, as rain water runs off these spaces with nowhere to go other than our drainage systems which then struggle to cope.

Said Scott: "Most non-permeable, traditional driveways require planning permission – whether new or non-replacement. My suggestion is that if people are encouraged to keep their gardens green they can deliver environmental benefits and flood management services to the local authority which could be valued, leading to a pro-rata reduction in council tax.

"By using a simple costing system, we might be able to incentivise people to help the local authority in much the same way as agricultural payments are made for farmers to deliver environmental benefits.

"However, if people have decking and driveways they are equally placing an increased burden on drainage systems and this should lead to an increase in water charges, thus acting as an incentive to use green space productively.

"I believe it is crucial to inform people that the individual household decisions they make, even on a garden or driveway, cumulatively can have a huge impact on surface water flooding and subsequent costs to the local authority.

"This area is poorly understood and consequently managed in a planning policy context. Yet if we were to encourage people to keep their gardens green let's think about the multiple benefits to us all that such actions might deliver."

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