End of Winter

Towards the butt end of winter, when nature starts an Advent calendar-like countdown to spring with catkins, bulbs, swelling buds and then green shoots, I start musing about why new-build often fails to exploit planting. What is the point of dedicating areas of greensward to roam if the houses themselves are lost to a sea of blacktop? I love boundary treatments like these used by Taylor & Green in Norfolk some 50 years ago. Clear vertical demarcation of who owns what, but also enough twiggy stuff to support the bees and butterflies development otherwise threatens.

These boundary treatments are a wildlife sanctuary to watch from within the home. But before you set off for the garden centre, a plea. DEFRA is about to unleash the regulatory equivalent of napalm. In 2011 a law made statutory undertakings responsible for all private sewers and lateral drains. In return the stats have lobbied for enforceable standards for their construction in new-build. These standards, now out for consultation, threaten to make the area above and around the network of pipes connecting to houses a no-planting zone. Housebuilders will be under pressure to design to allow the stats unhindered access.

If you hate those threadbare service strips that already pock many developments which are only there to make the stats’ access easier, imagine when those strips are the only planting allowed. Definitely no trees, probably no shrubs and the most miserable front curtilage treatment you know set to become the default. Anyway, the game isn’t over yet. DEFRA will be listening up to 31 January – and possibly beyond – and surely it never intended a bias against planting.

Read the consultation on DEFRA’s website and let them know that pipes and plants need to co-exist.