Paving over front gardens to provide car parking has been an emotive subject for some time and because of this, laws were introduced in October 2008 in England to try to control the issue.
Almost everyone knows someone who has had a parking space created in their front garden (and even more, I suspect, have seen it done themselves). This article examines whether you can create a surface “driveway” without going through the formal process of getting planning permission.
New Front Garden Driveway Regulations in England
There aren’t any specific regulations controlling soakaways, and there’s no rule that says you must have one. But there is a rule to say that you need planning permission, and when you apply for Planning Permission the planners will want to make sure that you deal with the drainage from the driveway. This might mean putting in a Soakaway, but it might not.
One of the things that planners will probably insist on, under the new regulations, is that the driveway will be made from a semi-permeable or permeable material. These will allow rainwater to run though rather than sitting on the top of the driveway and run into the road drainage system.
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.
Soakaway not Necessarily Essential
If your slope is not too steep and you have garden either side (so there’s earth the water can drain away into), then the permeable driveway surface might be enough. If it isn’t, you don’t necessarily need a soakaway at the bottom by the road. You might be able to get enough drainage in by putting some drainage channels either side of the drive. It’s difficult to tell without knowing the steepness of the slopes involved and the direction of the slope with respect to the garden and the road (see Calculating The Fall On Your Driveway).
Of course, you say that you have a driveway at the moment, not that you are about to put one in. If you are in England and the driveway was put in before October 2008, then technically you don’t need to apply for planning permission and you don’t need a soakaway either.
Consider a Soakaway Anyway
However, if your driveway does send a lot of rainwater into the road, it might be worth considering a soakaway or other drainage anyway, since it will be better for the environment.
Soakaways are also good for your soil and the roots of plants, since they prevent “drowning” of the plant roots when it rains. They’re not so good if you use a lot of water on the garden either though. The rainwater from your driveway will end up in the soakaway and then go into the damp course. Some of the water that you want to use will be lost, so don’t get too enthusiastic with your watering can!