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What Counts as a Permeable Driveway Surface?

By: Chris Hogan MSc - Updated: 25 Apr 2018 | comments*Discuss
Permeable Driveway Surface Concrete

Many people are aware that the regulations in England for paving over front gardens for driveways have changed to persuade people to put in permeable driveway surfaces. The other countries in the UK have separate arrangements but are likely to follow suit.

Increased Risk of Flooding

The regulations are largely to prevent water run-off overpowering drainage systems which exacerbates flooding, although there are other reasons. The details of the new regulations and the reasons behind them are covered in more detail in our article New Regulations for Paving Front Gardens.

But what options are there for house owners who want to convert their garden into a driveway? In urban areas, off-street parking is at a premium and a driveway will add value to a house where parking is scarce.

What Isn't a Permeable Surface?

It might be easier to start with what isn't considered a permeable driveway surface, although it must be pointed out that the regulations don't actually define permeable and non-permeable surfaces. Those surfaces that we can be reasonably certain are not permeable are Concrete, Tarmac and almost every sort of block or flag paving.

Having said that, larger stone or Concrete Blocks can be used for a permeable driveway surface, but only if they are laid with an absorbent substrate and there are large gaps between the flags or blocks. Those gaps need to be filled with gravel or sand to allow water to flow down into the soil below. However, it is difficult and expensive to make a driveway that is stable, so it's best avoided in a domestic situation, particularly if you are laying the driveway yourself.

Gravel – Perhaps the Easiest Option

It's better to go with a driveway surface that is permeable from the outset. Gravel is a good choice, although there is a bit of a conflict when it comes to the laying of the foundations. The advice when making a foundation for a gravel drive is usually to have the foundation higher in the centre and sloping gently away to the sides to speed up drainage.

However, when laying a permeable driveway, we are looking to slow down drainage and allow rain to slowly soak through to the substrate below. For this reason it's best to combine gravel with a reinforcing cellular structure. This is pegged down then the gaps are filled with gravel. A secondary advantage of this system is that it holds the gravel in place so it doesn't escape into the surrounding areas.

These cellular systems can be used with materials other than gravel; anything can be used as long as it will allow the water to drain through it. Perhaps the best is soil, as grass and other small plants can be grown, giving back some of the wildlife environment that's been lost by the installation of the driveway.

Permeable Products from Mainstream Suppliers

It's no surprise that the paving industry has responded to the need for good-looking and permeable driveway surfacing products. Many manufacturers now have permeable versions of their block and flag products, which usually involve tabs on the blocks to increase the gaps between them to six to eight millimetres.

These gaps can then be filled with loose aggregate and water will drain away into the layers below. It is not enough to lay these products on a traditional foundation, though. They need a base of loose aggregate to be put down over a solid substrate or capping layer, and then the whole drive effectively becomes a soakaway. Each manufacturer should provide details of this.

Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems

Although the new regulations call for permeable paving, they do allow for non-permeable driveways to be installed as long as there is adequate provision for drainage within the property. This means that rainwater should be dispersed somehow, perhaps into the ground via a soakaway or into tanks for reuse within the property.

You will almost certainly need to go though a planning permission process for this but look into Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SUDS) for more information on the technology and techniques involved.

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[Add a Comment]
If I put a sub base of type 1 all over my front driveway, then put stones over the top, is this classed as non-porous? and therefore in need of planning permission. Or is type 1 porous enough to let the water seep through?
Julie3499 - 25-Apr-18 @ 11:34 AM
We have large paving slabs which the Council day we have to remove as it contravenes rules in our area (it is not semi-permeable). Is there a way we could adapt the existing slabs without replacing them?
Anna - 6-Dec-17 @ 7:53 PM
Can I build over rainwater drains with two runs of flags that will be used to drive the car onto.
Matthew - 1-Jun-17 @ 12:20 PM
yorkiegirl - Your Question:
We have moved onto a new estate where there is a covenant in the deeds that says we cannot alter our front gardens for five years. The road outside is not very wide and the neighbour opposite has enlarged his driveway by using weed proof membrane and aggregate stones to cover it. We are worried about drainag as we are slightly lower than them. What should we do?

Our Response:
Who created the covenant? Contact them first. If they refuse to do anything, you need to seek legal advice.
DrivewayExpert - 10-Apr-17 @ 2:22 PM
We have moved onto a new estate where there is a covenant in the deeds that says we cannot alter our front gardens for five years. The road outside is not very wide and the neighbour opposite has enlarged his driveway by using weed proof membrane and aggregate stones to cover it. We are worried about drainag as we are slightly lower than them. What should we do?
yorkiegirl - 7-Apr-17 @ 11:37 PM
I am needing to ask how I can lay an environmentally cheap surface on top of old broken badly laid uneven tarmac - been told that I can't lay any second hand aggregate over top - am assuming because of drainage.The original tarmac is from decades ago and is patchy. Will I need to lift all of that up first? Any advice please and also a recommendation on what materials to use. It is for an area space in front of house 415m2 Many thanks,
EB - 23-Feb-17 @ 11:37 AM
Hi if I was to pave with 3 x 2 slabs half my front garden and angled the water into the half not paved . Do I need planning permission ?
Daza - 9-Feb-17 @ 7:33 PM
We have an L shape block paved drive and need to create two more spaces at the top of the L can you suggest any ideas so it doesn't look as if its an obvious add on idea please.
DC - 6-Jul-16 @ 2:53 PM
Peter - Your Question:
Hi,Please could you contact me about having my driveway and patio laid. We are getting quotes on a building project and would like a quote on laying a new porous driveway and patio.RegardsPeterTel 07916426143

Our Response:
Sorry but our website is simply for advice. We do not actually carry out any driveway work.
DrivewayExpert - 20-Jun-16 @ 12:42 PM
Hi, Please could you contact me about having my driveway and patio laid. We are getting quotes on a building project and would like a quote on laying a new porous driveway and patio. Regards Peter Tel 07916426143
Peter - 19-Jun-16 @ 7:30 AM
We’re in a Conservation area.Since the SUDS 2008 directive, the frontages of several neighbouring properties have been completely paved over, without, it has to be said, planning permission having been sought.We recently told our Council that we wished to granite pave our frontage’s hard surfaces (currently block paved, with a hard-standing concrete strip at the garage end); and said that in doing so care would be taken to keep the present rainwater run off / soakaway provided by (a) two flower beds, and, (b) an existing drainage system: an Arco channel / drain in front of the garage, and, midway across the strip, a second channel and drain. The Council's replied saying Article 4 Direction applies and it means that minor alterations require planning permission. That’s not our interpretation of an Articles 4 Direction. We seen it’s sometime used where evidence suggests that undertaking certain types of development, where planning permission is not normally required, would harm local amenity or the proper planning of an area.And we’ve seen it applied to structures but not driveways. Changing a block paved and concreted driveway for granite, whilst retaining rainwater discharge is hardly likely to have an adverse effect on the environment. On the contrary. I would welcome comments from anyone who's had this problem with their blinkered council.
Toddy - 12-Jun-16 @ 8:12 PM
We have a paved Driveway in Front and side. It is bricks. But we also have a small semi circular grass Patch. We are thinking of converting the grass patch to similar brick paving ? Do we need Planning Permission ? Thanks
Ja - 7-Mar-16 @ 10:05 AM
I have just had a front garden flagged... it does slope towards the house... so had acro drain fitted running water into drain where roof guttering goes... also left a gap between paving and house and next doors fence and put gravel in to allow run off to get through. . should I have got planning permission? ?
drmartin - 17-Oct-15 @ 4:18 PM
@Alpha2006. You will not need planning permission as long as you create a means for adequate run off of surplus water into a drain or soakaway. If you have lawned areas to the sides for a soakaway this should be straightforward. If not, you may need to consider an aco type drain along one side or at the end, which connects into your drain.
DrivewayExpert - 12-Jun-15 @ 11:13 AM
I'm looking at replacing my driveway which is concrete in front of the garage and crazy paving to the rest of the front. I've had quotes for permeable block paving which resulted in a sharp intake of breath; If I went for non-pemeable block paving, what would I need to ensure was in place to meet regulations, and would I need planning permission?
Alpha206 - 8-Jun-15 @ 8:19 PM
@tarmac. It depends on how well water drains into the clay. Try some test areas, most permeable systems are pretty effective.
DrivewayExpert - 12-May-15 @ 12:16 PM
We have a very clay based drive way.Would we need a soak away system even with a permeable system?
Tarmac - 6-May-15 @ 6:56 PM
@Shakti. It depends on where the rain drains off really and how much of the land is paved etc. Try and find another person/expert who can take a look and advise you.
DrivewayExpert - 2-Apr-15 @ 2:06 PM
I have slabs in my front garden, but the firm who put them did not put shingles all around. Is this ok? Or could it cause damage to the building eventually.
Shakti - 31-Mar-15 @ 10:15 AM
@Craggle. Sorry we are having problems with our website today, but in the meantime, you may find this government guide useful.
DrivewayExpert - 23-Oct-14 @ 9:54 AM
We've dug out about our front garden, ready to put in a drive and put broken slabs covered with type 1 stone over it. The ground is clay and the site would be really boggy without this.Since doing that bit we found out about the change in regs :( Now we're wondering what to do to make sure we have a permeable surface... or do we dig a soakaway? The ground is sloping toward the road and the drive will be about 20m square. Can we put a more permeable layer over the type 1 before putting any paving down? We really can't afford the permeable pavers option or bonded resin, and gravel really doesn't appeal.
Craggle - 20-Oct-14 @ 11:08 PM
It's important to explain just why a permeable driveway is so vital. Every year now, it seems, we have a drought somewhere in the country. With so many drives paved, we're losing millions of gallons of rainwater each year. Instead of soaking into the ground and going into aquifers, it's lost into the drains, then the rivers, and this is water we desperately need for farming and all other purposes, so this legislation is necessary for our own protection.
Chris N - 4-Jul-12 @ 9:14 AM
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