Why is Solothurn set to ban gravel gardens?

Why is Solothurn set to ban gravel gardens?

In a first for Switzerland, Canton Solothurn has voted to ban the building of new gravel gardens. Here’s why the Swiss canton has chosen to ban the practice, and whether any other regions will follow suit.

Canton Solothurn bans new gravel gardens

By 52 votes to 38, the cantonal parliament of Solothurn approved a ban on gravel gardens on March 19. Under the new rules, it will be forbidden to create new gravel or rock gardens in the canton unless the site fulfils very strict eligibility criteria.

Thanks to the vote, Solothurn will become the first canton of Switzerland to ban the practice, after three Swiss towns - Bubendorf (BL), Grenchen (SO) and Steffisburg (BE) - chose to impose the ban on the local level. However, the move does have precedence abroad, with several German federal states having imposed similar bans in recent years - the first of which was imposed in Baden-Württemberg in July 2020.

Gravel gardens deny wildlife a home, supporters argue

In arguments in parliament, supporters made the point that gravel gardens deny plants and wildlife much-needed habitat by eliminating green spaces. For cities, gravel gardens are known to keep and absorb much more heat during hot weather, which in turn heat nearby houses and make heatwaves more uncomfortable. They concluded that green gardens can be just as easy to care for as gravel ones, provided the right plants are chosen.

However, the ban was not universally popular, with the bill being opposed by the Swiss People’s Party (SVP) and FDP. The Liberals. Speaking to 20 Minuten, SVP cantonal councillor Beat Künzli argued that the law massively interfered with the rights of homeowners and the ability of local authorities to make their own policies on the issue.

Will the gravel garden ban extend to other parts of Switzerland

With the ban on gravel gardens now set to be in force in Solothurn, many may wonder whether the policy will spread to other regions of Switzerland. At the time of writing, a similar proposal is set to be debated in Canton Jura.

On the federal level, the Federal Council already approved a report in 2022 calling for homeowners to “stop the gravelling of green spaces”, though the issue itself is yet to face parliament. The Federal Office for the Environment also encouraged local authorities to impose their own bans in November 2023. 

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Jan studied in York and Sheffield in the UK, obtaining a master's in broadcast journalism and a bachelor's in history. He has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, and...

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