What does your back garden look like

Why Bremen wants to ban gravel areas in front gardens

Mr. Meyer, you live in Bremen Neustadt. What does your garden look like?

Ronny Meyer: Behind the house I have a terrace with a lawn and in the front I have created a parking space for bicycles. I roofed it over and provided it with a green area - in this respect I balanced the paved area with the green roof.

More and more people are turning their front gardens into gravel gardens. Bremen wants to ban this in the future. Why?

We consider gravel gardens problematic for a variety of reasons, not just ecological ones. Plants are habitats for animals, for insects, for bees. Green spaces in the city also ensure that rainwater can seep away. If you pave everything, the infiltration area is lost. Green in the city also has a climatic function. Heat islands are avoided. Last summer showed it. We went through town with a thermometer and found that the temperature in the lawn was cooler than on the stone. And personally, I also find it nicer to look into the green than at bare stone.

In Bremen, the Greens are often accused of regulatory madness. You have now introduced a regulation that bans gravel gardens and requires green roofs. Were there any protests in advance?

There has been a lot of discussion about the regulation on green roofs. The real estate industry pretended that it would make it more expensive to build. There are similar regulations in other cities such as Dortmund and Munich. And it is already the case today that not everyone is allowed to do what they want. For example, it is stipulated that in new development areas the front garden facing the street must not be bordered by a wall or a wooden wall, but that a hedge must be planted.

What additional costs do the people of Bremen have to reckon with?

Green roofs are only prescribed in new buildings and on flat and gravel roofs from a size of 100 square meters. We are talking about the large apartment and office buildings, not about private terraced houses and semi-detached houses. On this scale, green roofs play no role in the project costs; according to previous calculations, the additional costs are only 0.2 percent. In addition, water is stored, which gives a bonus in the wastewater billing. In winter you save heating costs with the insulating layer of earth. In this respect, you have real lower costs. However, if you want to green a small garage roof privately, you can quickly get it with 200 euros per square meter. I did it anyway, with the effect that I'm now looking at a lawn from my living room and not at cars.

Does grandfathering apply to front gardens that are already gravelled?

Correct, but when new buildings are built in Bremen in the future, the garden must be greened. We recommend plants that promote insect diversity and that can withstand climate change. But these are only recommendations. The plant types are not made mandatory, which would be inappropriate from my point of view.

What resistance was there against the ballast ban?

We hardly notice any resistance to the regulation. These front gardens are a thorn in the side of many people. Most people find such front gardens ugly and unecological.

As early as 2018, BUND Bremen asked to become the first pesticide-free region to protect insects. To what extent is a ban on the use of pesticides for public areas now being implemented?

Umweltbetrieb Bremen does not use any pesticides or weed killers.

The advisory board in Blumenthal recently found out about flower strips. Does Bremen have to rethink even more?

We want to try to become even more active in the future and to improve the cooperation between the Environment Department and the Office for Roads and Transport. We see that the insect decline is real. We must all be concerned about that. It will not be enough to create flower strips; there must be a comprehensive ban on pesticides. We'll see what the federal government is doing nationwide. And we will have to think about lighting because many insects die from artificial lighting. Bees do an extremely valuable job of pollinating plants. It cannot replace human hands. I don't want to live in a world like that in which we have eradicated the insects. Even if some insects can occasionally be a nuisance, we should be happy about every single insect. In addition, birds and other animals lose their food due to the decline in insects. It has massive consequences if we lose the insects - and it is man's fault.

The interview was conducted by Patricia Brandt.

Ronny Meyer, born in 1976, is the State Councilor in Bremen, responsible for the environment, construction and transport. He is married with two children and lives in Neustadt.