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Paving the way to a flood problem in Ramsgate

Home / About Ramsgate / News / Paving the way to a flood problem in Ramsgate

14 October 2019

Back in 2007, the UK suffered a series of devastating floods and in response, Central Government, looked at the problem and pointed out that the growth in paved areas was a contributory factor to the problem.

With warm weather comes the possibility of thunderstorms and extreme rainfall. If rain falls on open ground covered in vegetation, much of it can be absorbed and allowed to percolate through the substrate. In urban areas, much of the rain will fall on paved areas and will be carried away via storm drains.

What this means is that the sewers cannot cope, sewage is discharged into the sea as treatment plants are overwhelmed, and rivers and watercourses are polluted with the runoff from urban areas.

The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), in its report ‘Greening Grey Britain’ produced in 2015, stated that three times as many gardens were paved over in 2015, compared to 2005. Front gardens in London and the South East are paved over more than the other regions. Since then, the trend has continued to see an increase in paved areas.

Why is this happening, and does it matter?
There are 34 million motor vehicles in the UK, more than enough for one vehicle between two persons. Many of them will reside in London and the South East. Most vehicles spend upwards of 80% of their life span parked somewhere, and in the intensively built up areas of London and the South East there is not enough space to accommodate them all. Paving over your front garden, affords you free parking and a place to put that other space invader, the wheelie bin. Problem solved! But is it?

Paving your front garden is not a ‘win-win’ solution, all it does is create problems down the line.

Paving a front garden with an impermeable layer of concrete, tarmac or brick pavers causes the following:
  • Rainwater will drain into the sewers instead of being absorbed by the soil.
  • Any pollutants like tyre rubber, oil, etc will add to the pollutants washed down the drain from the highways and may end up in the sea or in our watercourses.
  • Paved areas create a heat sink, where heat is absorbed by the paving and released at night adding to cloud cover.
  • With no plants to absorb CO2, it adds to the problem of global warming.

This is one of those issues that on a personal level would cause few problems, but collectively, if everybody follows suit, it creates a major issue. It’s our tropical rain forest problem. I am sure in Brazil, many people feel that nibbling here and there into the forest is insignificant in its impact; but because of the numbers of people all cutting down trees, it may cause them and the rest of humanity, severe environmental problems in future.

So, what is the solution?
In this case we can have our cake and eat it.
  • If you are contemplating paving your front garden use porous or permeable materials that allow water to percolate into the soil. Using non permeable materials means that you will require planning permission anyway, so permeable is the cheapest, easiest solution.
  • Don’t pave over all of the garden, leave some space for flowers and nature. It looks better and will add value to your property; the utility car park look is not fashionable, right now, and may actually devalue the property.
  • On existing paved areas, consider digging up some of the paving , leaving enough for a roadway and filling in the spaces with gravel or better still, ground cover shrubs or plants. At the very least put in soakaway drains, so that rainfall run off can be accommodated.
  • Ramsgate gets over 90% of its water from aquifers and reducing the amount of water feeding those aquifers will mean that we may suffer shortages.

Top tips for a better environment and added value
  • Take a look at your front garden, is it more like the before rather than the after example?
  • If it was paved over in the last 12 years and is not permeable, did it receive planning approval?
  • If you are thinking of adding parking space, make sure the surface material you use is permeable and then you won’t have to worry about planning objections.
  • If you were buying a house, which of the two examples would you look at first? Having an attractive front garden might add £££’s to the value of your house.
  • Use an experienced, trusted paving contractor, to advise you on the best materials and methods to adopt.
  • If everyone does their bit for the environment it will make a difference and need not cramp your lifestyle; in fact, it may well improve it.
Written by:
Richard Styles,
Town Clerk
An example:
Here is the same house with full paving and with a low-cost alternative:

Before: a drab uninteresting space within a well-kept building. The rainfall will drain straight into the street adding to any flood water gathering elsewhere.

After: The paving is removed and replaced with aggregate and plants. The aggregate is contained within the site by some paving and there are some shrubs to add interest. The same number of cars can be parked off road, but any rainfall can percolate safely into the soil.

You can do this in other ways, but it does give you a worked example of what could be done, to brighten up the barest of sites.