Recently published Government figures show that the proportion of new houses
built on previously residential land such as gardens has risen dramatically,
from one in ten to one in four between 1997 and 2008 – robbing communities of
green breathing space, safe places for children to play and havens for urban
Instead of being protected as havens for wildlife, not to mention the sheer
pleasure they bring communities, gardens have had the status of neglected
The Government appears to be taking action to help local people protect the
character of their area and empower councillors to stop inappropriate
developments. The Department for Communities and Local Government has removed
gardens from the definition of brownfield land in Planning Policy Statement 3,
and has abolished national ‘density targets’.
Rules are also being changed so
that local Councillors can campaign on behalf of their constituents without
fear of breaking the rules of ‘pre-determination’ and losing their right to
I am hoping that the Localism Bill will give local residents the opportunity to
decide what developments are appropriate for their area, but it is not yet
clear what the changes will mean on the ground. Will residents be able to stop
inappropriate developments? Will green spaces, and in particular the green
belt, be protected if residents want them protected? Will residents be able to
influence the design of new developments so that they are in keeping with
surrounding areas? I had hoped the answer would be ‘yes’ to all these
questions, but it remains unclear, and I have written a number of letters to
Ministers seeking clarity.
There are so many cases of garden grabbing in the area – too many for any MP
to fight. That’s why I helped to establish the following website;
www.protectourgreenspaces.com. It’s a web-based campaign toolkit designed to
help people campaign more effectively. If you have time, I encourage you to
have a look. It has helped others and I hope it will help you too.
If you need advice or assistance with your own 'Garden Grabbing' issue, please
contact, Helena Reimnitz on
or call on 020 8939 0321 and she will investigate your situation and help you
develop an effective campaign. Alternatively, please visit the designated
It has helped others and I hope it will help you too.
Healy the Housing Minister, has admitted that ‘garden grabbing’ by
developers has become a serious problem in ‘hot spots’ around the
country, but has lambasted Councils for allowing it to happen.
and Richmond Councils have always blamed central Government for the
intense problem we face here with inappropriate developments, but the
Minister states that Councils already have the power to prevent the
development of gardens and green spaces.
He has said that local
authorities have been “sitting back and washing their hands” of a
problem which they can prevent simply by including protection of
gardens in their annual local plans – the statement which local
planning authorities issue to describe how they see development in
The Minister’s view is backed up by a Kingston
University review which found that areas which had stated a preference
for limited building on gardens found it easier to turn down
It is certainly the case that new
rules brought in by John Prescott eroded the distinction between
Greenfield land and brownfield land, and that needs to be reversed by
the next Government. In the past five years, 180,000 new homes have
been built on gardens and land already containing a property. In some
areas as much as 94 per cent of residential development is on gardens
or occupied land, with the London suburbs being worst hit. I will
continue to push for that change to be made.
But in the
meantime, we need to demand questions of our own Lib Dem Councils which
have allowed an astonishing number of inappropriate developments in
this area. We need to know why Richmond and Kingston Councils have put
up so little resistance, and what they will now do to protect our green
spaces in light of the Ministers' statements.