Tuesday, 18 December 2007

The right to an impermeable front garden? One of the issues that comes up consistently in consultation and mediation at local level, is the rights of the householder vs wider impact. Noise remains the classic theme of course, but other issues emerge from time to time such as Christmas lighting, car parking, trampolines in the garden, smelly garbage and so on. My little theory is that the age when the rights of the householder seemed to trump most other rights could be coming to an end, because its ambiguities and contradictions are becoming more frequently exposed, and awareness of collective environmental impact is growing fast. Here's an instance now: Householders should no longer have the automatic right to lay impermeable surfaces in gardens or driveways according to an independent review of the summer's flooding. The measure is one of a number of proposals for mitigating surface flooding outlined by Sir Michael Pitt in his interim report on managing flood risk. The report said that in urban areas, permitted development rights allowing private property owners to carry out works such as paving driveways can prevent the drainage of surface water, which accounts for two-thirds of all flood waters. It concluded that in areas of high flood risk, this right should no longer be automatically assumed. (Planning resource). This could have heavy implications for urban and suburban streets, where improvised parking across pavements is already excessive, inconsiderate towards pedestrians and often dangerous. Which brings us round to the need to stop people buying more cars. Some households near me appear to occupy more carspace than floorspace. Paved tracks, with permeable surround, would seem a sensible solution in many cases. More in the RHS guide. Previously: Front gardens. More on front gardens.
Pavement chalking epidemic? I've just been reading some interview and survey material from a range of local residents who attended street parties, as part of a wee project I'm doing with Chris Gittins at Streets Alive. Let me share this extract with you: How do you get on with younger and/or older people in the street generally? Fine. Except someone in the street called the police about our 2 young children drawing with chalks on pavement outside our home. We actively want our kids to play in the street and were shocked and depressed by that attitude. This took place in a city in England. I have no more information and don't know if it took place during a street party or not. But it's an eerie echo of the story of the Brooklyn sidewalk-chalker who received an official fine - indeed it may pre-date that story. What next? In both instances, I'd have hoped the officials would have taken the time to make a point to the complainant, because it's in the authorities' interest that civil relations prevail, and it can't be hard to do that when there is no serious threat to anyone or to any property. I can remember when I was a kid, with siblings or friends, riding small bicycles up one end of our street invariably caused one particular older woman to step out her door and tell us to go away. Presumably, she wanted that portion of the planet over which she had some control to remain just so. Is that what drives this uncivil anti-neighbour nastiness? The poverty of generosity under which she existed must have been wretched. The idea that civil relations with the people who live around us is universally regarded as desirable seems to be simply false.

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