Design A Front Garden: Where Does Rain Water Go?

Good garden design does not just happen by chance. It is a careful arrangement of features and elements that are considered in terms of design, aesthetics, and functionality.

In the last issue, we looked at how we can design front gardens to create a welcoming sense of arrival, with hard and soft landscaping working in harmony. This column digs deeper into the practicalities, environmental impact, and regulations that relate to the world of front gardens. 

Where Does Rain Water Go?

I am stating the obvious when I say that it often tends to rain outside, we are in Scotland after all, but it is amazing how many front gardens do not factor this in. When we create a hard surface in a garden, we must always address the question of where the rain water will go.

A big concern with climate change is the increased risk of flooding – our front gardens can play a vital role in the solution. Soil is like a sponge and can hold a phenomenal amount of water. Across the whole UK, our soils holds more water than all of our lakes and rivers combined! Covering the soil with hard landscaping takes away that function and results in the water running into roads, drainage systems, and rivers – all of which contributes significantly to the issues of flooding that we face. 

Conversely, by making sure that our gardens continue to allow water to permeate, our front gardens can effectively become part of the flooding solution. There are over 29 million homes is the UK, our individual front gardens may have a relatively small footprint, but when added together collectively, they encompass a vast amount of land which can either mitigate, or exacerbate, flooding, depending on how we treat them. 

There are increasing numbers of products on the market that create a stable surface to walk and drive upon whilst still allowing the water to permeate – so we can do our bit whilst still being able to park the car. 

Rules of ‘Permitted Development’ 

Rules of ‘Permitted Development’ apply to the creation of front gardens in Scotland – and the creation of driveways, parking, and other hard surfaces in front gardens are subject to Planning Permission. Any surface water has to be managed on your property. A driveway that allows water to run into the street is not compliant. By law, it is always the homeowners’ responsibility to ensure compliance and seek the relevant planning permission which means that if there were to be any recourse action demanded by the authorities, it is the homeowner, rather than the contractor, who will be held responsible. 

So, how do you make sure that your garden contributes to the solutions of flooding, and meets the regulations set out by the Scottish Government. 

  • Create your driveway using a permeable surface such as a gravel stabilisation system (Eccogravel is one that I use a lot) or a resin bound surface. There are even permeable versions of tarmac available now and other new products are being developed all the time.
  • Create a ‘fall’ in hard landscaping to allow water to run into plant borders. Always make sure these are away from the house to protect your house from damp. 
  • In a really big space, consider incorporating an underground soakaway.
  • Never let a driveway drain directly onto the street. If necessary, add a drainage channel at the boundary and direct the water it collects to a suitable plant border or soakaway.
  • Visit which contains lots of useful information on the regulations that apply when creating gardens and undertaking other developments to your home, (pop ‘permitted development’ into its search bar).
  • Finally, make sure that the contractor you choose has the knowledge they need to make sure the work complies with the regulations of water management. These are in place to protect our environment, our communities, our properties, and even ourselves, from the devastating effects that flooding can cause. 

Designer and Director of Lynn Hill Garden Design, Lynn loves designing wonderful green spaces and has worked on a wide variety of projects – from small townhouse courtyards, to sprawling country landscapes. She has created gardens at Chelsea Flower Show, Hampton Court Flower Show, and Gardening Scotland, as well as working with BBC TV as a Design Consultant for Beechgrove Garden COP26 Special.

Lynn is passionate about sharing her vision and skills. Having a 1st Class Honours Degree in Community Education from the University of Edinburgh, as well as an HNC with Distinction in Garden Design, she brings a dedication to social and environmental purpose. She has been honoured with many awards which stand testament to her devotion, skill, and attention to detail. 

Green spaces can be sanctuaries that nourish us, heal us, inspire us. Lynn encourages us to view our gardens as an extension of our home, and embrace the benefits they bring to our health and wellbeing. 

A member of the Scottish Ecological Design Association, and Women In Property, Lynn also finds time to work alongside Scottish Actor Gordon Brown to create a holiday respite home for families with children affected by cancer for the Eilidh Brown Memorial Fund. 

See more of Lynn’s work at 

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