Fresh air

©Kathy Taylor©Kathy Taylor

Art Trail Wanstead will return this September. With the theme announced as 'A breath of fresh air', Kathy Taylor looks at one way we can contribute to fresh air in Wanstead (new parking restrictions notwithstanding).

There seems to have been a frenzy of paving activity taking place in Wanstead recently. Is this due to the threat of the new parking restrictions, I wonder?

Of course, the paving of front gardens is nothing new: over the past 10 years, the number of front gardens with gravel or paving instead of grass has tripled, now making up a quarter of all houses, a survey for the Royal Horticultural Society shows.

There has been much focus in London recently on the deteriorating quality of the air we breathe, especially from PM10 particles emitted by diesel vehicles. The dangers to asthmatics and young people are especially worrying. Those of us with outside spaces of our own can all play a part in cleaning the air (apart from driving less or converting to a cleaner car). Planting a tree and some shrubs in your front garden, for example, actually helps purify the air with the added bonuses of increasing habitats for wildlife, reducing noise and keeping our streets cooler in summer.

Another reason people pave their gardens from fence to fence and house to pavement is that they think greenery is difficult to maintain. However, there are beautiful small trees, such as ornamental hawthorn, winter-flowering cherry or Amelanchier lamarckii, suitable for the smallest of front gardens and flowering evergreen shrubs that can be left alone with just an optional annual trim, such as Viburnum tinus 'Eve Price', Choisya ternata, Mahonia japonica, Pittosporum tobira or various Hebe varieties, with Vinca minor or hardy geraniums as ground cover. All will enhance the look of your house without taking up too much space if you do need to park your car off road.

The other thing to bear in mind is the regulation about permeable surfaces. Because conventional hard surfaces do not absorb rainwater, all this paving has contributed to extra surface water going into drains (instead of back into the soil and feeding the ground water), causing flooding and depriving the ground water supplies. Plus, it can overload the sewerage system. A regulation exists to enforce permeable hard surfaces of over five square metres in size in front gardens (visit

In 2005 Redbridge Council ran a campaign to encourage people to keep plants in their front gardens. Unfortunately, parking policies can often be at odds with this as the less street parking available for residents, the more likely people are to pave their front gardens.

Have you ever noticed the cool, fresh smell when coming out of Wanstead Tube Station from the centre of London? This is because of how green Wanstead is. Let's keep it that way!

For more information on Art Trail Wanstead, visit

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