Friday, 2 July 2010

Garden Grabbing

I noted that the Bracknell Standard picked up on my query to the planning officers about the issue of “Garden Grabbing”. One of the objectors to a recent application had cited the change in policy in this area by the new government.

The big headache with planning issues is that we are very much bound by law, the weight given to various government planning edicts, and policies contained in local plans. The local plans themselves although called local, are often constrained by Government policy.

I asked the question to clarify the position that we are now in. It appears that we are now in a much better position to write rules that will prevent future high density development in back gardens. The change in the regulations already gives us more room to manoeuvre.

The previous governments planning rules created a shortage of homes with parking and gardens. Whitehall regulations were pricing a whole generation of low and middle income earners out of buying a family home. As they pledged, the new government are now changing planning rules to encourage more new homes with bedrooms and gardens for families – in place of dense blocks of flats.

A letter that was recently sent to Planning Officers if available at

I am writing to confirm that the Government has amended Planning Policy Statement 3: Housing (PPS3) with the following changes:
 • private residential gardens are now excluded from the definition of previously developed land in Annex B
 • the national indicative minimum density of 30 dwellings per hectare is deleted from paragraph 47
 Together these changes emphasise that it is for local authorities and communities to take the decisions that are best for them, and decide for themselves the best locations and types of development in their areas.

In 2000, John Prescott introduced new national planning regulations for housing – which forced all new housing developments to pack in 12-18 new dwellings per acre. The flawed rules also classed gardens as ‘Brownfield’ land. As a result, blocks of flats were increasingly being crammed in the place of existing homes with gardens. This is also known as ‘garden grabbing’. Reports suggest that the price of a family house has risen at eight times the rate of a new flat since 2000, and there has been fall in the number of detached and semi-detached homes being built. There is now a relative over-supply of flats in many areas.

In recent years, it has become increasingly difficult for families across Bracknell Forest on modest incomes to buy a home suitable for children to grow up. But house prices don’t change in isolation from government policy. Labour’s national planning rules, laid down on high from Whitehall, have in many areas created a surplus of pokey flats and a shortage of family homes with parking spaces and gardens.

Recent government figures suggest the proportion of houses built on previously residential land, such as gardens, increased from one in 10 in 1997 to one in four in 2008.

Dr Simon Thornton Wood, director of science and learning at the Royal Horticultural Society, said gardens had medical as well as environmental benefits.
"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."

Now that the new government have scrapped the rigid density rules, let’s hope that it will now let the market build the homes that people want and need.

No comments:

Post a Comment