Front gardens help to make towns and cities worth living in. They can make walking a pleasure, promote sociability, contribute to biodiversity, reduce the danger of flooding and make streets safer. But too many are neglected, contributing nothing to the quality of the place. Every year thousands of front gardens are paved over. Gardencheck is a simple method by which we can assess our streets and begin to change attitudes among householders, policymakers and everyone else with a stake in places where people live.
- Front gardens have more impact on the face of residential areas within our towns and cities than any other element of the streetscape. Their qualities are being eroded at an unprecedented rate.
- Walking is rarely pleasant where gardens have been turned into private parking lots. It is unsafe for children if cars are reversing over the pavement into the street. The lack of safety encourages parents to drive their children to school rather than to walk. That increases the amount of traffic and the danger to the few children who still walk.
- Planted front gardens absorb rainfall instead of making it run off into drains, as imperviously paved parking-lot front gardens do. Porous surfaces reduce the risk of flooding and replenish the groundwater that we depend on for water supplies. As well as being good for biodiversity, generous planting with the right shrubs and plants can help to improve the climate and air quality, and reduce the harsh visual impact of the motor car.
- The front of the house and the pavement are traditionally places where neighbours greet each other. The front garden is publicly visible private space; the pavement is public space; and the front garden wall divides the private space from the public space. Destroying the front hedge, fence or wall and turning the front garden into a parking lot reduces the street’s sociability and the sense of neighbourliness.
- Parking on front gardens, with the consequent need for crossovers and dropped kerbs, privatises parking, reducing the amount and flexibility of parking space that is publicly available in the street.
- Converting front gardens to parking spaces uglifies streets, reducing their value in the long term. Where one parking lot front garden is unattractive, the combined effect of a number of bare frontages emphasises all the disadvantages.
Nothing makes more difference to the quality of a street than its front gardens.
How does your street score?
|1 Care and contribution to the street||The front garden is attractively planted and cared for, and it contributes positively to the street scene.||0 Not at all12345 Very much|
|2 Garden free from parking||How much of the front garden is not usable for parking.||0 Less than half1 More than half2 None for parking|
|3 Water runoff minimised||More than half of the surface is of a type that lets rainwater soak through to the ground rather than into street drains.||0 1(no) (yes)|
|4 Boundary||The front garden has a low wall, low fence or low hedge on its boundary to the street, apart from a gap for a drive (OR the fronts here have an attractive open-plan layout).||0 1(no) (yes)|
|5 Bins||The bins are tidily arranged or out of sight.||0 1(no) (yes)|
Notes on scoring
- Score each front garden, and work out how the street scores on average for each category. That will give you a five-point score for the street.
- A front garden that is out of sight behind a tall fence, wall or untidy hedge scores a total of 1, as it contributes nothing to the street apart from hiding the bins. A front garden out of sight behind a tall, attractive hedge or a particularly attractive wall scores a total of 5.
- In the case of a front garden that is totally hidden from the street by boundaries and gates, score 0 for ‘Water runoff’ and for ‘Garden free from parking’ as there will be no evidence for a positive score for these.
- The scoring system will help you assess most front gardens. Occasionally you may come across a garden that scores low according to these criteria, but which actually seems to contribute to the street-scene in a positive way. In such a case, override the scoring system and give the garden a score that you feels reflects its overall contribution to the street-scene.
- A front garden is any garden or similar space, whether planted or not, that fronts a residential street.
- At an intersection a street may be faced by the side of a garden of a house on an adjoining street. Do not include such gardens in your assessment.
GARDENCHECK SCORE SHEET
STREET NAME: DATE:
Note: A front garden that is out of sight behind a tall fence, wall or untidy hedge scores a total of 1, as it contributes nothing to the street apart from hiding the bins. A front garden out of sight behind an attractive hedge or a particularly attractive wall scores a total of 5.
|House/flat number||Care and contribution to the streetscape 0 1 2 3 4 5||Garden free from parking 0 1 2||Water runoff 0 1||Low wall, low fence or low hedge on boundary to street 0 1||Bins tidy or out of sight
|Average for street|