Scientists call for ban on artificial grass to help protect the environment

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Scientists call for ban on artificial grass to help protect the environment

Homeowners should be banned from using artificial grass and get council tax discounts for sustainable gardening, scientists have suggested.A study by

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Homeowners should be banned from using artificial grass and get council tax discounts for sustainable gardening, scientists have suggested.

A study by researchers at the University of Sheffield has said financial incentives are needed to combat the effects of climate change in cities and promote a healthier urban landscape.

Professor Ross Cameron, who wrote the report, said Britain’s natural gardens are vital for keeping down temperatures, absorbing rain and offering refuge to wildlife.

But he believes modern trends in garden design have become ‘very damaging’ to the environment – particularly singling out an uptick in paved patio areas and fake turf.

He said: ‘Gardens need to be green and full of plants to be beneficial to the local environment, and some types of garden are more beneficial than others.

Modern trends in garden design such as artificial turf (pictured) have become 'very damaging' to the environment

Modern trends in garden design such as artificial turf (pictured) have become 'very damaging' to the environment

Modern trends in garden design such as artificial turf (pictured) have become ‘very damaging’ to the environment

Professor Ross Cameron said Britain's natural gardens are vital for keeping down temperatures, absorbing rain and offering refuge to wildlife. Pictured: College Green in Bromley, Kent

Professor Ross Cameron said Britain's natural gardens are vital for keeping down temperatures, absorbing rain and offering refuge to wildlife. Pictured: College Green in Bromley, Kent

Professor Ross Cameron said Britain’s natural gardens are vital for keeping down temperatures, absorbing rain and offering refuge to wildlife. Pictured: College Green in Bromley, Kent

‘The paradox is that many gardens are not actually green and some trends in garden design can be very damaging for the urban environment.

‘We have paved them over to house the car, or provide sterile patio space; factors that increase urban temperatures and increase flooding risk.

‘Many residents use artificial grass that kills much of the soil life underneath it, and when real plants are present, we wrongly assume we need to hit them with a cocktail of chemicals to keep them alive and free of pests.

‘These chemicals pollute our watercourses and damage the ecological function of our gardens.’

Professor Cameron’s report, published in the Urban Forestry and Urban Greening journal, suggests four key ways to promote sustainable garden management.

It says residents could be offered financial rewards, such as a reduction in council tax or water bills, for homes with more than 50 per cent of their garden space planted.

It also states that monetary incentives could be given to individuals for planting or maintaining trees in gardens, with appropriate choices based on the size of a garden.

The study further suggests that property owners should be banned or restricted from using artificial grass and synthetic pesticides.

Radical changes must be made in order to combat the loss of green spaces, especially thpse in inner-city areas. Pictured: Hampstead Heath in London

Radical changes must be made in order to combat the loss of green spaces, especially thpse in inner-city areas. Pictured: Hampstead Heath in London

Radical changes must be made in order to combat the loss of green spaces, especially thpse in inner-city areas. Pictured: Hampstead Heath in London

And it goes on to say that council planning processes should have mandatory requirements to include and protect well-planted areas.

Professor Cameron said radical changes were now needed to combat the loss of green spaces, particularly among densely packed inner-city areas.

He said: ‘Gardens account for a third of all our urban areas and are vital spaces in terms of keeping our buildings and city environments cool in summer, absorbing rain to avoid flash flooding and providing an important refuge for wildlife.

‘Our research shows that some cities may have lost as much as 50 per cent of their ‘green’ garden space over the last two decades.’

Will Teare, 32, from Sheffield, South Yorks., has been planting a garden that provides a habitat for wildlife.

He supports incentives for sustainable practices, saying his family got a ‘lot of enjoyment’ out of seeing their land come alive with the sounds of the natural world.

He said: ‘When we moved into our house, we thought about how we could create a garden that would help us be more connected to nature, so the most important thing for us has been that it benefits wildlife.

‘Humans are responsible for a lot of the loss of habitat for wildlife and we wanted to invite it back into the garden.

‘Everything we try in the garden, whether it is the plants we use, or having a go at creating different habitats in the garden, say with a woodland type area or pond, needs to have value for the wildlife.

‘The family gets a lot of enjoyment out of it, the birds coming to nest, or watching the frogs and newts around the pond; it brings the garden to life, and is a source of excitement for the kids.’

‘I think like us, everyone can work with what space they have, have a small tree, unusual plants, or create different habitats.

‘So I think incentives to plant a garden will definitely get people to think about it!’

Professor Helen Woolley, Head of the Department of Landscape Architecture at the University of Sheffield, said lockdowns had brought home the value of gardens.

She said: ‘The value of this research is it categorically states the value of a particular landscape type and how that links to different socio-environmental agendas.

‘Many citizens quickly realised the value of their home gardens during the pandemic lockdowns, and this academic paper builds on and reinforces what we learned then.

‘It is important that policymakers and planners take note.’

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