Approaches to management of surface water that take account of flooding, pollution, biodiversity , and amenity are collectively referred to as Sustainable Drainage Systems or SuDS as an acronym.
On the first of October 2008, legislation (SI 2362 The Town & Country Planning General Permitted Development Order 2008) was introduced. It requires anyone wishing to install or renew hard surfacing on their front garden that covers more than 5 sqm to apply for planning permission unless a permeable surfacing is used or the surface drains to a soak-away.
Why was this restriction introduced? It was passed following research reporting that paving over front gardens for off-road parking was occurring in such large numbers that it was having an unseen environmental consequence. The main problem identified was an increase in damage caused by flooding due to surface water run-off into overloaded road drainage systems. Other problems included air and water pollution; loss of greenery and wildlife habitats; and loss of the front gardens and attractive leafy streets.
How do you comply with it? The main types of permeable surfacing are gravel, permeable block paving, porous asphalt, and porous resin bound aggregate paving. All use different materials and construction methods to enable water to infiltrate the ground.
This legislation described above concerns front gardens only. Elsewhere around your house, there are no restrictions on the area of land which you can cover with hard surfaces at, or near, ground level. Consequently, no planning permission is required.
For further information go to the gov.uk website or read the booklet ‘Guidance on the permeable surfacing of front gardens’ published by the Environmental Agency. A copy can be downloaded here.