‘Garden grabbing’ could soon be a thing of the past, thanks to new measures that give councils greater power to prevent unwanted development in local gardens.

Better protection for local gardens

Until recently, planning guidance has classified gardens as ‘previously residential land’ – a brownfield category that also includes derelict factories and disused railway sidings. As a result, development in gardens has increased from 11 per cent in 1997 to 23 per cent in 2008, with the majority of new buildings being small flats rather than family homes.

Now, however, Decentralisation Minister Greg Clark has announced plans to give councils greater influence over the type and scale of development in local communities. “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,” commented Clark. “Today I am changing the classification of garden land so councils […] have the power to work with industry to shape future development.”

This will not only help preserve all the benefits associated with green space – including improved air quality, recreational opportunities and wildlife habitats – but will also help reverse the recent decline in affordable housing for families.

This is a priority for Diane Smith, project manager of GraBS, a Europe-wide scheme that promotes adaptation through the use of green and blue infrastructure. “We cannot duck the housing crisis and we must recognise that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to development and densities,” she says. “Good design depends on the creation of a local community character capable of satisfying everyone.”

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