Londoners are paving over a quarter more of their gardens than a decade ago, according to a survey of changing land use in the capital.
The report, “London: Garden City?”, blamed recent trends in garden design for the sharp increase in the amount of hard surfaces such as paving or decking over the ten years to 2008.
Researchers from the London Wildlife Trust, in partnership with the Greater London Authority and Greenspace Information for Greater London, used aerial photographs to record the amounts of different types of ground cover in London, from plants to hard surfaces. It's the first study of its kind, and it's hoped it will generate a baseline to track future trends.
They found that London's gardens cover 37,900 hectares (146 square miles) – nearly a quarter of all the capital's land area, and including about 3.8 million individual gardens. But the amount of that land devoted to vegetation fell by 12% to 22,000 ha (85 sq m) in the decade to 2008, leaving just over half London's garden area given over to growing plants. Meanwhile the amount of hard landscaping increased by 26%, or 2,600 ha (10 sq m).
Building development remains a threat, and the report found 500 gardens were completely or partially lost each year in the capital. However it said the loss of green space due to development is relatively small in comparison to that caused by trends in garden design and management.
'It's never been more important that Londoners understand the value of our capital's gardens,' said Mathew Frith of the London Wildlife Trust. 'A well-managed network of the city's 3.8 million gardens supports essential wildlife habitat and offer important environmental benefits in response to climate change, including sustainable urban drainage.'
The report found that changes in planning regulations to slow down the paving over of front gardens in 2008, partly as a result of an RHS campaign, had helped, but said loss of permeability as a consequence of hard surfacing may have become an issue for back gardens too.