COLOURFUL gnomes have popped up in the front gardens of East Oxford homes with a message to residents to stop damaging the environment.

The figurines are part of anonymous artist Athirty4’s latest project called ‘Vocal Gnomes’ and are also propped on top of Low Traffic Neighbourhood (LTN) barriers.

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The artist’s project focuses on the issue of ‘disappearing front gardens’ that have been paved over ‘at an alarming rate’ and which they say have been turned into ‘mini car parks’.

They said: “I first had the idea for the project about two years ago when I started to notice how a number of house owners were paving over their gardens. I didn’t just notice this phenomenon in Oxford, but I saw it occurring in other cities too.

“And it made me wonder how many acres of green space home owners were tearing up across the whole nation. It’s not a sensible thing to do, for many reasons, during a time of environmental crisis.”

It took Athirty4 around a month to produce the finished gnome pieces and they hope the figurines will generate discussion about the issue of the loss of green spaces, particularly front gardens.

They said: “It’s really important that the council starts to create laws to prevent property owners ripping up their gardens for the benefit of their cars.

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“It’s not just the loss of insect and bird life from front gardens, but it’s important to preserve our front gardens so that rain water can be absorbed into them, or we could face more flooding issues.

“Thoughtlessly paving over front gardens is verging on environmental vandalism."

Some of the gnomes have been placed on LTN planters that were installed in Cowley as the artist supports the scheme and says they act as a 'counterweight' to paved gardens.

Independent councillor for Cowley David Henwood likes the gnome idea.

He said: "The LTN scheme continues to divide our community. If gnomes and creative minds can form a catalyst for change in Cowley, they will be very welcome."

Athirty4 placed the ‘Golden Gnome award’ in a front garden in Arnold Road which they say was ‘absolutely bereft of any living thing’.

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