New planning rules to give councils power to prevent unwanted trend
New figures have laid bare concerns over the dramatic increase in the number of 'gardens grabbed' for development in the last 12 years according to www.communities.gov.uk.
Now councils will be given the power to ensure that the trend is brought under control after Decentralisation Minister Greg Clark said the statistics show the Government was right to take immediate action to prevent unwanted garden grabbing by changing the planning rules.
The percentage of new homes built on previously residential land - which includes back gardens - has increased to 25 per cent, up 14 percentage points since 1997, when only one in ten homes was built on similar land.
Last month, Greg Clark changed the planning rules to give councils new powers to prevent unwanted garden grabbing by taking gardens out of the brownfield category that includes derelict factories and disused railway sidings.
Many councils had been left frustrated at the increasing amount of inappropriate development on gardens which they have been unable to prevent. Taking gardens out of the brownfield category will dramatically transform councils' ability to prevent unwanted development on gardens where local people object and protect the character of their neighbourhoods.
Mr Clark said, "For years local people were powerless to do anything about the blight of garden grabbing as the character of their neighbourhoods was destroyed and their wishes ignored.
"We can see from these statistics that last year an even higher proportion of homes were built on previously residential land, which includes back gardens. Building on gardens robs communities of green breathing space, safe places for children to play and havens for urban wildlife.
"It was ridiculous that gardens were classified in the same group as derelict factories and disused railway sidings. Now we've changed the classification of garden land, councils and communities will no longer have their decisions constantly overruled, and will have the power to work with industry to shape future development that is appropriate for their area."
Dr Simon Thornton Wood, Director of Science and Learning at the Royal Horticultural Society said: "We welcome any measure that protects the vital resource we know gardens to be. 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."
Richard Bashford - Project Manager, RSPB said: "Gardens are mini nature reserves on our doorsteps and vital habitats for all sorts of wildlife. Many much loved species rely on green spaces like gardens, such as the song thrush and house sparrow, both of which have suffered massive declines in the last few years. House sparrow numbers have plummeted by over 60 per cent and we have lost almost 75 per cent of song thrushes. If more garden space is turned into buildings they will likely decline further and the wonder that children experience on the doorstep will dwindle.
"We hope that the new measures will protect the habitats of species that have become synonymous with English gardens and demonstrate a rich eco system in our own back yards such as frogs, toads and bumble bees."
August 21, 2012