Government to put curb on 'garden grabbing'

Caroline Cassidy

There may soon be an end to the practice of cramming new houses into the back gardens of other suburban properties - a practice that the current coalition government believe is "robbing communities of vital green space".

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Greg Clark, the decentralisation minister, plans to give immediate powers to local councils to prevent developers building new houses in back gardens. The number of new properties built in gardens rose from 1 in 10 to a quarter of new properties between 1997 and 2008.

Currently, gardens are classified as 'previously residential land' which puts them in the same category as derelict factories, disused railways sidings and other 'brownfield' sites. Mr Clark wants to change the designation to make it harder for development to go ahead.

He said: "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."

The Royal Horticulatural Society is in full support of keeping our gardens green and they issued a warning at the recent Chelsea Flower Show that gardens are under threat from development.

Simon Thornton Wood, director of science and learning at the RHS, said: "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."

The RSPB also want gardens saved because they are "mini-nature reserves on our doorsteps and vital habitats for all sorts of wildlife."

John Prescott, the former deputy prime minister, who first put the brownfield classification in place is opposed to the idea as he believes that creating more houses is a more pressing need.

He said: "We are desperately short of land. We are talking about the few people who may object to the house in their street that's going to be used for social housing. I'm talking about families who haven't got a ruddy home...we desperately need houses. Prices are far too high."

What do you think? Should we be creating more homes or preserving our gardens? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.