RAC report spells out garden losses

RAC Foundation discovers that a third of homes built with front plots now have driveways instead.

Seven million front gardens have been dug up and paved to make way for cars in recent years, new research has found.

Soaring numbers of vehicles and a shortage of parking spaces has prompted people to rip up their front gardens and pave the spaces, said the RAC Foundation, which found that four-fifths of Britain's 26 million homes were built with a front plot.

A representative said: "Almost a third have been turned into hard-standing areas. This means seven million front gardens contain concrete and cars rather than flowers and grass - roughly equivalent to 100 Hyde Parks or 72 Olympic Parks."

The report, Spaced Out: Perspectives on Parking Policy, found that the average car was parked at its owner's home for 80 per cent of the time. On average, 800 cars were parked every second and English councils made a £310m surplus from parking activities in 2010.

Writer and environmentalist Ken Worpole said: "London's domestic gardens take up only a fifth of the capital's surface area but contain nearly 70 per cent of its 5.5 million trees and provide more wildlife habitat than recreation grounds and parks.

"Some boroughs receive hundreds of applications to convert front gardens into parking lots each year and authorities across the country face tens of thousands of such requests.

"Though councils are concerned, estate agents don't help, often claiming that turning a front garden into a parking lot adds to the value of a house. Acacia Avenue has turned into Daewoo Drive as we go from a nation of gardeners to garagistas."

Green-space consultant Kit Campbell said: "The solution has to be more car clubs and better public transport and cycle lanes - plus maybe more of London mayor Boris Johnson's borrowable bikes."

Other study findings

- Excluding charges for residents' parking, annual parking costs are £42.

- The average car consumes £1,600 worth of fuel annually.

- In London, half of councils' on-street parking income comes from parking fees and permits and half from penalties.

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