Following a change in the law in England in October 2008, planning permission is now required for homeowners wishing to pave a front garden with a hardstanding of more than five square metres if they are not using a permeable material. One of the main reasons for the new legislation is that the conversion of gardens to driveways in urban areas has increased the amount of water that goes into the storm drains when it rains, and this has contributed to the increase in flooding.
Under the new regulations, planning permission is not required if you are creating a driveway from a semi-permeable or permeable material, or if the water is directed to a lawn, border or Soakaway to drain naturally. This is to make sure that rainwater slowly seeps into the road drainage system, rather than running straight into the drainage system which causes flooding.
Of course, one or two driveways will not have a noticeable impact on the drainage system, but the trend for turning a garden into a driveway has become increasing popular in recent years, as many householders prefer to have parking space than a front lawn. The cumulative effect of water flowing from thousands of paved gardens has added extra pressure on an archaic drainage system that was never designed to cope with the increased water levels. In fact, hard surfaces can increase surface water run-off by up to 50%.
A spokesman for the Environment Agency confirmed that pavement and driveways made from permeable materials such as gravel, clay, brick rubble and crushed rock are allowed under the new legislation. “However,” he added, “we would recommend that homeowners use permeable surfaces wherever possible to reduce the risk of flooding.”
He went on to explain that the regulations are designed to make sure that rainwater is dealt with in a sustainable way, rather than creating more problems. He said: “Flooding causes misery for everyone and it can also damage the environment. We need to make changes to help stop this happening.”
What are Acceptable Materials?
The type of permeable surfaces that are acceptable includes Gravel, permeable Block Paving, and porous concrete and asphalt. Driveways built before October 2008 do not have to gain planning permission retrospectively. Check out our guide to paved driveways for inspiration.
There are also other issues for preventing gardens from being turned into driveways, such as the destruction of microclimates where insects and grubs can survive that in turn are food for small animals and birds, and the fact that hard surfaces reflect the heat of the sun rather than absorb it. Also, there are protected species of plants and insects that live in gardens that would be destroyed by the change of use.
You can see a list of materials that are acceptable on the DEFRA Planning Portal website. It is important to remember that permeable driveways do not always have to be made from special permeable concrete or tarmac
Contact the Highways Department
One specific point where discussions with the local council will be required is if you plan to put in a new driveway that crosses the pavement or verge outside your home. In this instance, you will need to obtain the permission of the Highways Department at the council. They will also require that the kerb be dropped to road level so that it isn’t damaged when you drive your car over it.
The process for doing this varies from region to region. Some councils will insist on doing the work themselves, but others will only do it if they happen to be resurfacing at the time. If they don’t do it themselves they will probably require you to use approved contractors to do the work. If that’s the case get a variety of quotes, as charges seem to vary wildly.
Another important point to make is that you will need planning permission if you are thinking of putting in a new driveway at the side of your home. You should also check with your neighbours and any nearby residents before doing any building work.