Reaction to Front Garden Paving rules

Well, it's been a fortnight since the comedy legislation from the hapless British government regarding the paving of front gardens in England was enacted. The new guidelines curtail Permitted Rights Development and impose new restrictions on how private householders pave their front gardens were introduced without any worthwhile consultation amongst the contracting industry, and this has resulted in an unhealthy mixture of disdain, indifference and and plain disregard. But what about the manufacturers: what's their take on the whole kerfuffle?

Chris Harrop, Group Marketing Director of Marshalls, commented:

"The introduction of permeable paving to domestic front gardens is a very important development in the battle against extreme weather conditions driven by climate change. Marshalls are fully supportive of the move towards the use permeable paving and have an extensive range of products available. However we are pleased to see that the Government has recognised that permeable paving is not suitable for all driveways for example those that slope towards the house or for all areas of the country, due to the differing nature of the UK's ground conditions especially those with very heavy clay or where the land lies below the water table."

"We think the decision to still utilise impermeable concrete block paving materials, providing that adequate provision is made for run off water to be channelled to soakaways, or a rain garden within the property boundary is a well thought out and is a considered move to providing a sustainable solution. Marshalls has introduced a range of domestic drainage options available to its Register Members to assist with such projects. In essence we believe this kind of development is about good garden design using hard and soft landscaping materials that meet the requirements of the legislation, considers all environmental issues and successfully deliver well designed spaces that meet the customers' requirements."

aggregate industries

Aggregate Industries UK Ltd, the name behind brands such as Charcon, Bradstone, Stoneflair, Bardon and more, reckon they fully supports the new legislation.

Ian Wright, Head of Marketing for AI's Building Materials Division, comments,

"Although the legislation has been rushed through, it does start to address the problems of surface water run-off - which is an issue in areas of extensive hard landscaping, both domestic and commercial.

Over the next few months, Aggregate Industries will work closely with Interpave and Defra to ensure any issues with the legislation are ironed out. We will also work to ensure the general public and tradesmen are educated in the legislation's requirement, by making them aware of products available which prevent planning consent being required. The Aggregate Industries group of companies, offer a full range of products which work within the guidelines of the legislation. These include, permeable CBP from Bradstone and Charcon, permeable asphalt from Bardon Aggregates, a complete range of decorative gravels and chippings from Bradstone , plus commercial and domestic rainwater harvesting solutions."

Interpave were heavily involved in steering the initial proposal towards a less fanciful realisation and have published a very useful guidance document of their own. General manager John Howe to,

"The move has been welcomed by Interpave , the paving manufacturing industry’s trade association, to form part of a strategy to move towards sustainable drainage systems to alleviate down stream flooding and improve water course quality. Under the new rules, homeowners will no longer be allowed to pave their front gardens without planning permission, unless permeable surfaces such as concrete block permeable paving are used. However, Interpave is pleased to advise that government has heeded their advice that materials such as precast concrete paving that drains the surface water to a soakaway or rain garden be regarded as a permeable surface."

"Interpave has already recognised the need to address this issue and the new Government Guidance on paving front gardens refers extensively to two existing Interpave documents designed to help homeowners, designers and contractors meet the new planning requirements. The Interpave documents offer comprehensive guidance on sustainable drainage to avoid water discharge into sewers, when using concrete block and flag paving, and these can be downloaded free of charge from our website ."

Meanwhile, Mark Law, Tobermore Concrete Product's GB Sales Manager, is less enthusiastic and echoes the feelings of many contractors. Mark has spent a couple of weeks chatting with their customers and contractors to gauge reaction, and he makes a number of good points:

"At Tobermore , we have now had time to review the legislation published and have also taken some time to consult with a range of our customers who are predominantly involved in driveway type work and many feel that the legislation is confusing and ill thought through."

"There appears to be a lack of clear and direct guidance to a contractor on where to discharge surface water. The guidance document often refers to discharge to the surface water system whilst confusing the reader by stating that this may not be permitted development and then going on to say that this can be done as a last option. In the majority of situations in England, the sub grade is heavy clay and therefore surface water will require management rather than being infiltrated back to ground. Many paving contractors do not have an in-depth knowledge of the principles of drainage and sub-grade stability (including a full understanding of the dangers of incorrectly positioning soakaways) and with a natural tendency for any contractor or DIYer to revert to the path of least resistance, many driveways will probably be drained directly into the surface water/foul drainage system or discharged into poorly constructed or positioned soakaways. In our view, this will increase the potential for pollution of our water systems and the domestic surface water discharges to them and/or cause damage to foundations and localized flooding. This seems contrary to the purpose of this legislation.

To ensure that a permeable pavement is constructed correctly and to protect the interests of all stakeholders, after receiving details from a contractor on items such as permeameter tests, CBR values, rainwater intensities, loadings etc, we can, when necessary, provide guidance on the correct construction of a permeable pavement. Currently and in the main, this information has a requirement to be quite technical in nature and is normally checked by a civil engineer prior to construction. Many small paving contractors are unqualified to provide the design information, check the advice that we provide or have ease of access to a civil engineer without significant cost. For this reason, the liability for failures of a permeable driveway become hazy and costs rise to the contractor/consumer. Many contractors that we have discussed this with are very concerned about liability and how they stand in the legal chain. Some of the methods that are described in the guidance document regarding the testing of sub-grade appear unprofessional and may also lead to disputes on liability. We feel that this will result in a downturn in the landscape/driveway industry as contractors shy away from these responsibilities. This is also likely to increase the "cowboy culture" at a time when our industry is seeking to raise standards.

Our industry is full of very professional and capable small contractors, who appear to be referred to in the legislation as " casual jobbing contractors that should not be used ". We feel this is grossly unfair to an industry that provides an excellent service to consumers and is generally very professional and of good quality. The landscape industry has prided itself in developing an awareness of the "cowboy culture" and in pointing consumers in the direction of better quality contractors.

Whilst we applaud and support the need for action that prevents further increases in flooding and damage to our environment and welcome growth in permeable pavements, this legislation appears to have been introduced quickly and without thought for the damage that it will have on the livelihoods of many paving contractors and the manufacturers/suppliers of materials who supply them. The monitoring of this legislation and the training of those who would be responsible for this appears not to have been put in place. Many planning departments contacted are simply unaware of the legislation or have insufficient officers to carry out the volume of work that will be required.

In short, we believe this legislation should be retracted until such a time that the full impact on the industry has been assessed, including additional consultation with its stakeholders and a competent method of administering the workload that this legislation will create for local authority planning and building regulation departments, in monitoring and ensuring that systems have planning permission and that they are constructed correctly."

Strong words from Tobermore and probably closer to what many contractors feel than some of the other comments. Brett seem more positive, as Marketing Services Manager Zack Barratt explained,

"Brett Landscaping supports this new legislation. As well as being a measured and considered response to a recognised problem, the new regulations serve to highlight the issue of flooding as well as the various options available to homeowners. Through careful design consideration, meeting the demands of the legislation is not difficult. Many of our Approved Installers have been installing rain garden and soak away solutions for many years, which negates the requirement for local authority planning permission."

"It will help to further separate the professionals from the cowboys, as long as the government can support the legislation with a suitable level of policing. These regulations, and the way in which the industry is responding in terms of product development, is all positive, and serves to highlight that the landscaping industry is both innovative and responsible. It will also be important that as an industry, we help in the education of our customers to ensure they are not put off by the complications they might encounter."

Hanson Formpave are the company that spent many years developing and promoting permeable paving long before it was 'fashionable', and their Business Development Director, Steve Spikes, has concerns that echo those of Tobermore:

" Hanson Formpave believe in the concept of permeable paving and as such consider that the installation is paramount in achieving the end result paving that drains efficiently. The legislation whilst having admirable aims is a 'horse before the cart' law, it tells people that they require planning permission to install a non permeable surface yet does not allow the industry to 'gird up its loins' to train and ensure that the specification for installation is carried out proficiently. "

"There is no provision for policing installation therefore the 'cowboy' will continue to flourish and the thus far good name of permeable paving suffer due to, I will be kind, a lack of knowledge of what constitutes the make up of a permeable pavement."

So: opinion regarding the effectiveness and implementation of the new legislation is diverse. While the aims are supported by all, it's the impact on contractors that seems to be dividing manufacturers. While some see it as a marketing opportunity and a way of separating the wheat from the chaff, others are concerned that it undermines the whole trade and is virtually unworkable.

An official review of the legislation is already underway, courtesey of the construction industry's research arm, CIRIA, and they are conducting an online survey into how the regulations have been received to date. It's fairly crude, particularly in its estimations of market share, but if it leads to a re-consideration and a re-writing of the rules, it's no bad thing. Fancy a go at it yourself? Then click here .