THERE'S a worrying trend in suburban Britain. If, like me, you live in any of its generic, post-millennium housing estates, you'll have noticed it, too, for it feels you can't fall the length of yourself without seeing another one.

I'm talking, of course, about artificial lawns and turf.

In the last few months, these eye-sore, biodiversity-destroying horrors appear to have become the must-have accessory for the kind of people who had to add on extra driveway space to fit in the second SUV.

By some estimates, around one in ten of the UK's homes are now adorned by their own five-a-side pitch. But, that figure feels increasingly way out.

The downsides to these lawns will not surprise anyone reading this, with more unnecessary plastic slathered where havens to the UK's critters once stood and soil, such a readily available carbon sequester, no more. If that isn't enough, consider the fact it, at a time of record temperatures, soars far higher on the mercury than natural grass ever could.

This isn't Horticulture Week, but there is a point to it all. Recently, I came across a brilliant Twitter page doing its bit to fight back against this scourge. Shit Lawns (@Shitlawns) calls out, well, s**t artificial lawns, reminding people time and time again the havoc they're wreaking.

It was on this account the other week that a sad story from England was widely shared. In the grounds of a McDonald's, several trees – estimated to be around 40 years old – were torn down and the grass dug up to make way for turf. The anger was palpable, with even Chris Packham getting in on the action. At the time of writing, several protests are planned by local campaigners outside the fast-food restaurant.

This sorry tale is the problem in a nutshell. In the rush for convenience – and there's a good argument to say artificial turf isn't any less 'troublesome' than cutting the grass 20-25 times a year – nature is being put to one side. And, more worryingly, it appears so are trees.

If we assume a tenth of the population (and probably more) doesn't want to spend time caring for grass, it seems highly unlikely we can expect them to care for trees. Not to mention the fact that any notion of planting one in the garden joins natural grass in the skip.

Forestry Journal: Chris PackhamChris Packham (Image: Archant)

It's too early to tell what kind of effect this will have on the UK's urban treescape, but if McDonald's can rip up several trees without warning and get away with it, it doesn't seem the stuff of fantasy to worry others will do the same.

Here's hoping the trend, like mullets and shell suits, goes the way of others before it.

This piece is an extract from today’s Forestry Features newsletter, which is emailed out at 4PM every Wednesday with a round-up of the week's top stories. 

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