The RHS Greening Grey Britain ‘Front Garden Summit’ in the UK highlights the urgent need to save green spaces. RHS Vice President, Alan Titchmarsh, volunteered at the summit to buy, plant and maintain urns of plants outside Number 10 Downing Street in order to raise the profile of front gardens on what he described as the ‘greyest frontage known to man’.
Speaking at the first Summit, he lamented the loss of front gardens and challenged the audience of horticulturists, national and regional politicians, public policy figures, planners and engineers, to work together to halt the destruction of environmentally and socially important green spaces across the country.
The Front Garden Summit represents an escalation in the charity’s ongoing Greening Grey Britain campaign to revive the nation’s front gardens and encourage the replacement of hard, grey surfaces with plants. New research commissioned by the RHS found that only 10% of the 2,067 respondents said growing plants in their front gardens was an activity in which they would like to get involved. On top of this, despite regulations being in place designed to limit the use of impermeable surfaces, three times as many front gardens have been paved over compared to 10 years ago.
The scale of the challenge was highlighted by RHS Director General, Sue Biggs, who explained that since 2005 more than three million front gardens had been completely paved over, and that more than seven million had been partially paved. She went on to describe how the loss of these green spaces increased the risk of flash flooding in urban areas, as water could not drain off at a controlled rate; how they contributed to the reduction of plant and wildlife biodiversity, and that they increased the urban heat island effect, as concrete retains heat during the day and releases it at night, leading to increased urban temperatures.
The RHS Greening Grey Britain campaign aims to harness the power of the public to turn 6000 grey areas green by the end of 2017. Let’s see if Downing Street will be one of them.