Wednesday 20 January 2010

Councils CAN stop Garden Grabbing

John 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.

Kingston 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 their area.

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 developers’ applications.

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.

Zac Goldsmith
Conservative PPC Richmond Park and North Kingston

I have been involved in countless local campaigns to protect green spaces, but there are far too many for any MP or candidate to fight effectively. That’s why I helped to establish — a web-based toolkit designed to help people campaign more effectively.