Garden-grabbing to come to an end

Gardens will be given greenfield status, rather than brownfield, the government announced today, to end “Garden-Grabbing”, where developers buy up a garden and build several houses on it. Greg Clark, Communities Minister, said that the reclassification will give local councils the power to reject housing developments within urban and suburban areas.

Brownfield sites can be defined as previously used land, and incorporates disused and derelict industrial buildings and land. Planning permissions sought for developing those sites have often been granted despite local objections, due to government policies on housing.

The government’s figures suggest that in 2008, a quarter of new houses were built on previously residential land (including gardens), whereas in 1997 it was only a tenth. The worst areas are the South East and London, and the West Midlands, although it is wide-spread.

Greg Clark has said “For years the wishes of local people have been ignored as the character of neighbourhoods and gardens has been destroyed, robbing communities of vital green space.

“It is ridiculous that gardens have until now been classified in the same group as derelict factories and disused railway sidings, forcing councils and communities to sit by and watch their neighbourhoods get swallowed up in a concrete jungle.”

Dr Simon Thornton Wood, of the Royal Horticultural Society, is in full support. He said  “Gardens, like parks, are the green lungs of cities, improving air quality, controlling air temperature and flood risk, and providing a haven for wildlife.

“Beyond these very practical benefits of gardens we know that gardening is great for physical and mental health. That’s why we would like planning measures to go further than protecting existing gardens, to guarantee high-quality green space and gardening opportunities in all new building developments, wherever they are.”

Speaking on Radio 4’s Today programme, Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith pointed out that part of the problem was that gardens were so much cheaper and convenient to develop than industrial wasteland.

“We want to protect gardens so that instead of being at the top of the list in terms of target of developers they are at the bottom.”

He said that the government should be looking to develop the real brownfield sites available and to make available for occupation the large number of empty houses already built.

Source: BBC News

Date: 9th June 2010