England’s green and PLASTIC land: The new-build estate where the garden of every home is carpeted with fake grass that ‘poses risk to pets and children’
- EXCLUSIVE: Every home on new-built estate appears to have a fake plastic lawn at the front and back
- While low-maintenance, campaigners warn chemicals and plastics are dangerous to wildlife and children
- READ MORE: How to grow the garden of your dreams – Monty Don share his tips
Row after row of neat little houses with their green grass lawns that will forever remain perfectly trimmed…
At first glance they appear like the miniature homes of a carefully manicured model village. But these are real properties in a brand new estate in Hampshire.
Moneyfield Mews in Portsmouth is a brand new development on top of a former football field that has plastic grass at both the front and back of every single property – and it’s claimed the ‘homeowners have no choice’.
The four-bed semi-detached properties come with a hefty price tag of around £550,000 – but their new owners can at least save some money by not forking out for a lawn mower.
Residents in the houses nearby already have mixed views on the new estate and its fake grass, with some saying it ‘looks quite nice’ while others suggest they would ‘have it all ripped up’.
In recent years, artificial grass has moved well beyond sports pitches and into homes across the coutnry – with more than eight million homes installing it over lockdown, many homeowners swayed by influencers like Mrs Hinch and Love Island stars.
And developers have cottoned on too, opting for shrubless, bland gardens that offer little benefit to wildlife.
Model living? These homes look almost too perfect, with their bright green lawns. Experts say fake lawns are bad for the environment, but here is a drone image of Moneyfield Mews in Portsmouth that has it installed in the front and back gardens
The artificial grass which is used in these new builds in Portsmouth is made from Polyethylene, Polypropylene and Nylon – the manufacturing of these chemicals contributes to environmental degradation
A drone shot showing homes in Moneyfield Mews. The four-bed, semi-detached houses are currently for sale for £550,000
An old football field in Portsmouth has been redeveloped into a housing estate with plastic lawns at both the front and back of every single property, as one person has claimed that ‘homeowners have no choice’ about this
Moneyfields FC ground was redeveloped into three and four bedrooms home, with whopping price tags attached to them. The redevelopment programme has cost £5.2million.
It was initially due to cost £3.5m, but the pandemic contributed to hiking up costs, as well as delaying the build by 12 months. The new designs now include 14 flats and 12 houses.
While homeowners have mixed views on the pro and cons of fake lawns, wildlife experts agree they are bad for the planet.
An Environment Agency report published last year laid bare the scale of change needed to help England’s biodiversity and climate crisis.
The report set out a list of significant changes that will be implemented to help landscapes in England thrive.
It outlined that there need to be interventions in place – such as nature-based solutions – to help wildlife recover, after it was revealed that across England large areas of habitats have been lost – with 99.7% of fens, 97% of species-rich grasslands, 80% of lowland heathlands.
And, artificial grass may not be the stunning low-maintenance garden that many assume – with the lawns requiring regular raking and cleaning, and owners need to purchase products to get rid of smells and stains.
There are social media accounts rallying and peopling out against them, with Twitter account S**tlawns’ determined to call out ‘the hideous trend of plastic lawns’
Artificial lawns also actually get hotter than bitumen and concrete, and without a real blade of grass on them, they emit an unpleasant smell of melting plastic during the summer.
A 2017 report projected that as much as 330 million pounds of artificial grass waste could be required to be disposed of every year
There was an 185% increase in searches for artificial grass in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, as one person said it is becoming popular due to a ‘combination of fashion where people want to have that Love Island look’ in their gardens
Worse still, the lawns can get dangerously hot for dogs and cats, with reports on social media of pets burning their paws on the plastic grass. ‘Don’t let your dogs on it, it’s just burnt my dog’s paws’, one Twitter user warned, while another said that ‘more than once I’ve seen rabbits eating the plastic grass.’
The lawns are made from Polyethylene, Polypropylene and Nylon, and the manufacturing of these chemicals is a very energy and water-hungry process, which can contribute to environmental degradation and global warming.
In recent years, artificial grass has moved beyond sports pitches and into homes. Research shows that there was an 185% increase in searches for the material in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic.
And the trend continues to grow on the back of influencers and home-renovators on social media.
When artificial grass it is replaced after its eight to ten year lifespan, disposing of it sustainably can be difficul. In a 2017 report, the Synthetic Turf Council projected that as much as 330 million pounds of artificial grass waste could required to be disposed of every year.
So what are the benefits of having a natural lawn versus a fake lawn? What problems do they pose for pets, wildlife and critters? And why are consumers being told is there one clear winner?
‘I would rather be given a lump of soil and make my own decision’
Charlotte Howard pictured in her beautiful garden, which she has spent time and effort on. She says biodiversity on artificial grass suffers as ‘creatures cant reach the soil’
Speaking to MailOnline, Charlotte Howard, who goes by Capability Charlotte on social media, says that artificial lawns are particularly prevalent in new builds and areas such as Essex, Kent and Manchester, where they have become a ‘combination of fashion where people want to have that Love Island look.’
She said: ‘The majority of places it is happening is residential and new developments, for example there is an old football field called Moneyfield Mews in Portsmouth where there is just plastic grass at both the front and the back of the gardens.
‘They [developers] have basically redeveloped an old football field and have these plastic grasses on both front and back on every single property, and homeowners have no choice.
‘I would rather be given a lump of soil and make my own decision.’
Having fake grass put on a lawn ‘doesn’t actually save you money,’ Ms Howard says. In fact, for a new built it would cost upward of around £10,000 to have it laid.
Instead, she says you could be paying a ‘gardener to maintain your garden for cheaper.’
Depending on which sort of plastic blade you opt for, the plastic last can last anywhere between eight to 10 years, or on a much higher level 12 – 15 years.
But even if you regularly maintain it, brush it, vacuum it and rake the leaves away, ‘there are absolutely no benefits to having it.’
Ms Howard continued: ‘It makes me angry that young, new families are moving to new builds and are moving to these properties that don’t have gardens and have no idea and are conned into buying this stuff.’
And for families that are looking at restoring a garden once they pull up the fake grass, it can take around five years to do so.
Because soil is delicate and has an ecosystem with thousands of creatures inside it, if you ‘mess about with it by covering it or digging it, you will kill it and it will then become a sterile sub base where nothing can live.
‘And plastic grass is built on aggregate stone base and possibly some sort of sand and grano-dust and the grass goes on top. Anything beneath it will not be able to grow, you are effectively putting a plastic grass on top of that well and on this delicate eco system.’
On rhe topic of pets, wildlife and biodiversity, Ms Howard adds that it is ‘an urban heat island effect as it is a hard surface, and vets regularly send out warnings regarding paw injuries’.
Charlotte Howard (pictured), who goes by Capability Charlotte on social media, says the marketing industry for artificial lawns ‘is so powerful people are just being brainwashed’
‘Many plastic grass companies sell it as dog friendly, but if you don’t have the right grass it can burn the paws.’
But because the fake grass industry has ‘extremely good marketing techniques’ – which Ms Howard has likened to the cigarette industry – she says that consudmers are ‘sold a dream that they don’t need to maintain it and their garden looks very Love Island or like the one influencer Mrs Hinch has.
‘It is a status symbol,’ Ms Howard says.
‘People will pretend that it is easy and people want this perfect lawn – everyone seems to have and want one.
‘People are living in these postage stamp gardens and they become quagmires as they don’t know how to look after it.
‘But real lawns do need watering and weed killer. If you want a bowling green lawn, you can put as much effort into it as you want. But if you are a lazy gardener like me, you can tend to it as much or as little as you like.’
She added: ‘But because the marketing industry is so powerful people are just being brainwashed.’
And in terms of recycling the plastic, Ms Howard says that we are ‘sitting on a ticking time bomb.’
Over eight million homes had plastic grass installed in their garden over lockdown as people spent more time in the garden, ‘in a few years we will have a problem.’
And this is because the plastic is not recyclable. While there are a ‘couple of factories in Belgium and the Netherlands but they are overloaded so it is piling up and sometimes it gets set fire to, and so you can imagine what that is like.
‘So it goes to landfill or incinerated mainly in deprived areas, so the less well off are suffering.’
The issue surrounding the fact that it cannot be recycled is because artificial grass is made from Polyethylene, Polypropylene and Nylon – and none of these chemicals are biodegradable.
Ms Howard says that people should, like her, opt to have natural gardens as they are the last calls of ‘nature and create a wildlife corridor.’
With people finding more unusual species of animals in their gardens, blocking off a natural ecosystem and the biodiversity is a shame.
She said: ‘If you are looking at an estate with a lovely garden versus a fake one, you are creating a barrier.
‘And gardens are becoming the last vegetates of wildlife, so if you leave it be and are a lazy gardener like me then you will get all the fruits of wildlife coming to you.’
Portsmouth homeowners speak out over ‘horrible’ fake grass on new-build estate
Homeowners at the new builds are divided on artificial grass, with some lauding the easy maintenance while other insist it looks ‘horrible’
One expert told MailOnline that having fake grass is new builds is a ‘hot spot for anyone with a smaller garden or with kids, as that is what it is designed for’
Residents living on a quiet city street are divided over their gardens, with some opting for real grass, and others choosing artificial.
Work is well underway on 12 new houses in Portsmouth, Hampshire, which already have artificial grass installed in both their front and back gardens.
The four bedroom, semi-detached houses are currently for sale for £550,000.
A block of flats has also been built on the same road which is surrounded by a border of artificial grass. Two bedroom flats in the block are available to rent for £1,350 a month.
The new properties at Moneyfield Mews are built on the site of a former football pitch, and those moving in will have no choice about whether they would like real or fake grass.
On two nearby streets, Dover Road and Salcombe Avenue, some residents have astro turf in their front and back gardens, while others have real grass.
The average price of a house on Dover Road is £220,000, while it is £350,000 on Salcombe Avenue.
Homeowners are divided on the subject, with some lauding the easy maintenance, while other insist fake grass looks “horrible.”
Anthony Fitton, 30, an engineer who has artificial grass in the front garden of his terraced house, said: ‘I hate it – just look at it, it’s horrible.
‘Me and my girlfriend are going to have it all ripped out soon and replace it with slabs which we can put planters on.
‘Luckily we’ve never had any trouble with flooding or waterlogging here because we have stones underneath the artificial grass.
‘We still get plenty of insects and wildlife at the front because we have plants in the border around it.
‘We’ve got real grass in the back garden, and we’ve got pet rabbits, so we gave to have it.’
Other residents in and around Moneyfield Mews ‘don’t mind’ it
Mark Wilder (left) a business manager on Dover Road says that he ‘doesn’t mind’ the artificial grass that has been installed on the new build homes in Moneyfield Mews, whereas Josh Batchelor (right) says he ‘wouldn’t mind artificial’ grass at his home
Mark Wilder, 44, a business manager on Dover Road currently has grass in his back garden but is considering getting artificial.
He lives in his terraced house with his children and wife, only metres away from the new houses at Moneyfield Mews, and ‘doesn’t mind’ the striking green artificial turf that has been installed.
He said: ‘We only moved in around six months ago. It will be much easier maintenance than proper turf.
‘We’ve got two kids, and they will be able to play on the artificial turf after it’s rained because it dries more quickly, and there will be no saturated soil.
‘There might be a downside for wildlife, there would be no worms in the soil and less bees.
‘I don’t mind the new houses at Moneyfield Mews, I think the artificial grass looks fine.’
Josh Batchelor, 32, an NHS care officer who has lived on Salcombe Avenue with his wife since July, said: ‘I have real grass, and I wouldn’t mind artificial, but my missus would never let me get it.
‘She prefers proper grass because she thinks it looks more natural.
‘You know what they say, happy wife happy life.
‘My parents have got it at their place and they really like it.
‘It’s much easier in terms of cleaning and upkeep for them.
‘But I think the general laying of it is difficult and can be expensive.’
‘I’ve got real grass and I will keep it for as long as I can maintain it’
Barbara Randall, 86, a long-term resident of Salcombe Avenue, said: ‘I’ve got real grass and I will keep it for as long as I can maintain it.
‘I might have to switch to artificial if I can’t keep it up.
‘I think artificial looks quite nice really.
‘It look fine in people’s front gardens around here.’
A man living on Dover Road, who has artificial grass in his back garden, and did not want to be named, said he has artificial grass for his three dogs.
The man in his 50s, who lives in the £220,000 terraced house with his wife, said: ‘It’s much easier to clean, you can wash it with a hose and you can even vacuum clean it.
‘We’ve only got a small garden at the back so it wasn’t too expensive, it cost about £200.
‘We’ve never had any trouble with flooding here because we have a low water table.
‘Because of the three dogs, we probably wouldn’t get much wildlife in our garden even if we did have real grass.
‘But we’ve still seen foxes, hedgehogs and shrews around.’
A man living in a terraced house on Salcombe Avenue with his wife, two children and dog said: ‘I’ve got slabs, that’s the best thing for my two kids and our dog.
‘If we had artificial grass the dog would just be peeing on it all the time.’
‘We love our artificial grass, it is much lower maintenance than a real garden’
Daisy Louie’s garden before (left, 2018) and after (right, 2019) installing artificial grass at her home in Bedfordshire. In order to look after it and maintain it, the mother says that all she needs to do is lay a new layer of sand over it once a year
In 2019, Daisy Louie, a parenting influencer, decided to install fake grass at her home in Bedfordshire, mainly as she said ‘it is much lower maintenance than having real grass.
‘Our new build had laid terrible quality grass too, so it wasn’t going to be easy to make nice. Plus we have a kid and a dog so the no mess and mud factor is appealing.
She outlined that the other benefits include the fact that her dog is energetic ‘and he would have dug many a messy holes in the garden if it wasn’t for our fake grass.
‘It’s also one less job for us busy juggling working parents.’
In order to look after it and maintain it, the mother says that all she needs to do is lay a new layer of sand over it once a year, and washes it down with a hose when the dog uses it as a toilet.
She said: ‘The hardest part is ensuring it is clean after the dog has urinated on it all winter. You don’t want the heat giving off a bad smell so we wash it down daily to ensure it doesn’t get smelly/messy.’
In asking Ms Louie whether she is aware of any problems artificial grass poses to animals and biodiversity, she said: ‘I am aware but we have such a small garden, and have utilised other areas of our garden for birds, bees and hedgehogs.
‘If we had a larger garden then I don’t think I’d have opted for fake grass.’
But the mother has admitted that if she did have a larger garden, ‘then I would 100% keep it real grass.’
She continued to explain: ‘Partly because we wouldn’t have a dog running directly into our carpeted front room, and would hopefully have a small utility room at the back of the house to clean the dog down when he comes in and out of the house.’
I love having a natural lawn ‘it is fun to watch the critters in my yard’
Charlotte Laws is an American author, talk show host, animal rights advocate, and has also spoken to MailOnline in opposition of fake laws
Pictured: Ms Laws’ garden. She says that fake grass has’ a big carbon footprint when you look at the manufacturing, transportation and installation’
She says that she ‘vehemently’ opposes the overuse of concrete as it ’emits a huge amount of carbon dioxide. It is responsible for up to 8% of the world’s CO2′
Charlotte Laws, an American author, talk show host, animal rights advocate, has also spoken to MailOnline in opposition of fake laws.
She says she ‘vehemently’ opposes the use of both fake lawns and the overuse of concrete in gardens as it ‘leads of a loss of wildlife habitat.
‘I have seen rabbits eating plastic grass on multiple occasions. It breaks my heart. It will surely kill them.
‘It is not just about rabbits: Little pieces of plastic [from the turf] get into the bodies of various organisms and microorganisms. Dirt and real grass are home to millions of soil-dwelling creatures. Plus, the plastic pollutes the soil for centuries, hurting all sorts of creatures for a very long time.’
The Los Angeles based talk show host continued to say that artificial grass is compromised of such as zinc, lead and recycled tire materials.
What this does is it kills the soil underneath and creates a dead zone, which is hazardous as ‘soil is important for many animals and insects.
‘Birds pick out worms and bugs for food.’
And fake grass can also get very hot for both people and animals, burning paws, feet and bodies.
And in terms of using concrete for gardens, front porches and driveways – as well as using it as a layer underneath the fake grass in some cases – it is bad for the environment and animals.
Ms Laws said: ‘It is another example of humans trying to lasso nature into submission. We need to look outside ourselves and care about other life forms. We need to see the value in their lives. We need to stop being so selfish and short-sighted.
‘Concrete is the most widely used substance on the planet. It emits a huge amount of carbon dioxide. It is responsible for up to 8% of the world’s CO2. It traps exhaust. It can lead to respiratory illnesses by trapping pollution. It leads to environmental degradation.’
In speaking about why she prefers to have a natural lawn, Ms Laws said that she enjoys the feeling of it and seeing biodiversity bloom in her own back garden.
She said: ‘I love feeling that I’m helping other living beings and the environment and it is fun to watch the critters in my yard. Also it can be enjoyable to garden, put in new plants, for example.’
Therefore, she personally sees ‘no benefits’ to having fake grass ‘other than saving a little water.
‘I argue that people are duped by companies that make money off fake lawns. They are duped into thinking this is the environmental way to go. Also artificial turf is not always easier.
‘Even though a gardener does not have to mow, the fake lawn can get wrinkled and has to be straightened out regularly.’
Ms Laws continued to say: ‘Otherwise, it can look extremely fake and frankly bizarre I have neighbors with fake lawns in my area and their turf is almost always crinkled or wrinkled.
‘Their gardeners are regularly trying to “fix the problem.” It probably takes more time to “fix the issue” than to do a quick mow.
It is better not to put lawn furniture or anything sharp on artificial turf or you can puncture it or leave a lasting imprint.
‘Plus if a dog goes to the bathroom on the lawn, it needs to be cleaned with warm, soapy water in order to combat the smell – this could be time-consuming and, of course, it requires water.’
‘Fake grass is no worse than a plastic bottle or any other plastic product’
Samuel Baylis says that the reason why recycling fake grass is expensive is because ‘the latex backing and the yarn is made of Polyethylene, Polypropylene so you have to separate the two parts’
Samuel Baylis’ garden before he dug it up. He said he had to dig through two feet of sand, and another two feet of clay and then chalk in order to get to the soil of his garden
While he works as a surveyor and salesman at Artificial Lawn Company, he has admitted that he likes an artificial lawn when ‘it is done properly, but on the flip side I like real grass and my grandad has a lovely lawn’
Mr Baylis has told MailOnline that his garden is not yet finished, but he hopes to install a small patch of artificial grass in his garden among sowing some wildflower seeds
While Samuel Baylis is a surveyor and salesman at Artificial Lawn Company, he has opted to rip out his new-build garden and sow seeds. However, he has admitted that he will be having a small plot of artificial grass for his dog.
Working for an artificial lawn company, Mr Baylis says that he has ‘noticed in new builds there is more of a demand for artificial grass because of the quality they are finishing the garden.
‘I just bought a new build and the garden was not up to scratch. So I had to dig 60 tones out to get to the good stuff. And that’s just in my back garden.’
But in saying this, he said that installing fake grass in new builds is a ‘hot spot for anyone with a smaller garden or with kids, as that is what it is designed for.’
Speaking about the benefits from having one, Mr Baylis says that ‘if you are in a place that you cannot grow real grass that is good, or where you have pets, then having something that has no mud, no mess and no mowing is a benefit.
‘And also the fact that it is porous and is laid onto a crushed base solves drainage issues. Aside from that, it is about aesthetics really, as it looks nice all year round.’
Surprisingly, he admitted that ‘while it requires some maintenance, there is actually less than a real lawn. So, although it is low maintenance, it is not no maintenance.’
While the lifespan depends on the grasses you chose and the usage, ‘a normal life span is around 12 to 15 years. But you can get to the top end of that if you look after it well.
‘I’d compare artificial grass to something like a carpet, they will keep the colour but they will be worn out and matted throughout use.’
In terms of recycling, Mr Baylis says that while there are ‘not as many recycling plants’ in the UK that are capable of recycling the plastic, ‘we have heard this year that they are building one in the North of England or Scotland.
‘But the reason recycling is expensive is the latex backing and the yarn is made of Polyethylene, Polypropylene so you have to separate the two parts.
‘But fake grass is no worse than a plastic bottle or any other plastic product.’
And in terms of what Artificial Lawn Company do to minimise waste, he says they ‘donate a lot to schools or a petting zoo, who is just around the corner from us.’
The artificial product, he says, is ‘not a one size fits all. It is for people where a garden is highly impractical or impossible,
‘But if you have a 1,000 meter lawn for example and are lazy, you shouldn’t really be covering it and it would be a disappointment but there is no reason that you shouldn’t have natural grass – unless you are in a position where you cant have it, and in some cases where they are hard or mobility or elderly and they cannot maintain the real lawn.’
‘But if you have a playground or sports pitch for example, that it is what it is designed for.’
In speaking about the purposes of fake grass, he admitted that ‘it is a bit of a strange one’ as to why some new builds are finished with a big slab of mud, artificial grass or dying grass,’ adding that: ‘It would make more sense to plant some plants’
And in speaking about his own personal preferences, Mr Baylis admitted that he likes an artificial lawn when ‘it is done properly, but on the flip side I like real grass and my grandad has a lovely lawn.
‘But it depends on what side of the fence you are as a natural lawn as each one is as much of a status and pride symbol as the other.’
In disclosing the plans for his own garden, Mr Baylis revealed that he had to dig through two feet of sand, and another two feet of clay and then chalk in order to get to the soil of his garden.
Instead of laying on artificial grass, he plans to ‘put in wildflower seed and a small patch of artificial grass for the dog. And I won’t be damaging the wildlife in my garden by having the small patch.
‘While a lawn is not a be all end all of the biodiversity of the garden, we will have lots of plants and wildflower and a smaller pond. I also like the outdoors so I want to replicate that in my own garden.’
Having fake grass ‘is not a massive task’
When MailOnline called EasiGrass to speak about artificial grass, we were told that there are a multitude of benefits to having fake grass installed.
The spokesperson said that the ‘benefits include time saving opportunities for the elderly, it reduces carbon footprint as you are not using a mower to cut the grass or using fertilisers, and it is not a one use plastic as its life is around 30 plus years.’
In terms of recycling, EasiGrass say they are ‘working on it’ and ‘looking into the future to collect older materials and take them to replace and make into newer materials. This is all in the pipeline.’
When asked about how placing fake grass on top of soil creates a cap for biodiversity, the spokesperson said that ‘worms can still live beneath the soil and in most cases they can appear on the edge of the garden,
‘But they are happily living their lives beneath the surface as the membrane is permeable.’
What EasiGrass use is a Type 1 mot – aggregate that can be made up of many different materials including limestone, crushed concrete and granite – in the layers, as well as grit sand which is compacted, before the artificial grass goes on top.
And for pets, the spokesperson said ‘they are more than happy being on the grass.’
When confronted about the excrement that pets can produce on the grass and the smell that comes with this, they said that ‘if they use it like a toilet it will smell like a toilet so you need to wash it down on a regular basis.
‘But it’s not a massive task to sprinkle the grass.’
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