July 19, 2012

Long long ago, back when vast herds of Teds still roamed the land, only people like David Cameron and George Osborne would have aspired to own a car. Now any oik can have one. The number of motor cars in Britain has jumped from around 3 million in the mid-50s to almost 30 million today. But has something perhaps been lost in the process?

Quite a few things, probably, but the one we’re here to talk about today is: front gardens. Once a familiar everyday term, “front garden” now has such an unfamiliar ring, it’s apt to be taken for a euphemism.

There was a time when every home would have its little patch of grass and flower beds out front. But rising car ownership soon meant every inch of every street was parked to saturation by 18:00 GMT. Something had to give. That something – as should be reasonably clear by now if you’ve been paying the slightest attention – was front gardens.

Since all those cars turned up, The RAC Foundation reckons, Britain has lost 7 million front gardens (half of those in the past two decades alone). That’s equivalent, The Daily Telegraph notes in reporting this story earlier this week, to 72 Olympic Parks – a unit of comparison which may not mean much to you now, but probably will in a week or two’s time.

“Unless we want to see more front gardens disappear,” insists the RAC’s Professor Philip Glennister, “councils need to address the matter.” Basically, what they need to do, he goes on to argue, is to provide lots more parking spaces. Whilst councils have “a legal obligation to keep traffic moving”, he laments, “there is no law that makes them provide adequate space for stationary cars, though we would regard the two as inextricably linked.”

Rather than providing alternative parking facilities, however, it seems cynical local councils are cynically profiting from the scarcity of on-street parking by cynically levying exhorbitant parking charges. One in ten Britons must now pay for the privilege of parking outside their own home, while “local authorities in London,” the Telegraph reports, “made a £180 million profit from parking in 2009-10. Those outside the capital made a further £310 million.”

One idea, Bankstone News supposes, might be to knock down one in three houses and re-purpose their footprint as a free or low-cost parking facility. This would allow people to carry on buying and parking more cars and might even permit the return of the good old British front garden. This would not only brighten the look Britain’s newly gap-toothed streets but could actually save the world!

Yes, that’s right, according to HMG’s senior climate change advisor Ray Krebbs, Britain today stands in imminent danger of being literally washed away next time it rains – because paved-over front gardens no longer retain moisture and could allow run-off flood waters to scour away the final vestiges of our rotten civilization – along, ironically enough, with all the cars whose advent brought about the FG’s tragic demise. Then those short-sighted councillors would be laughing one the other side of their stupid fat faces!

How Britain's front gardens could look if only councils would provide more parking places


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