Thursday, 21 January 2010

Report on Back Garden Development Published

The final report of a study into the planning issues surrounding development on back gardens undertaken was published this week by the Department of Communities and Local Government.During the passage of the Planning Act 2008, the Government committed to carry out a review establishing the extent of development on back gardens.

Over the last 30 years, and especially during the recent housing boom, the issue of back garden development (sometimes known as ‘garden grabbing’) has become politically contentious.

Private gardens currently have no special status in planning law, other than as part of private amenity space and their development is treated, in principle, like any other land. Despite the recession which has muted demand for housing land, fundamental concerns about the supply of land to meet housing targets, are still ongoing.

In many situations the development on garden areas may be interpreted as entirely appropriate and there are many clear, definable benefits to such development. They reduce the need to extend development into the countryside, create new homes without the need for increased infrastructure provision, provide better utilisation of land in areas where people no longer demand large gardens due to life style changes and they may provide small sites appropriate for local developers who employ local people. For these reasons garden land development may add significantly to the housing stock in ways that are sustainable and which meet identified local housing needs.

There are of course arguments against over development on gardens. They may lead to increased building mass, loss of character, increased population density and associated demand on service provision and traffic generation. Environmentally, garden development can result in a loss of green space and soil sealing/paving over gardens; ultimately leading to loss of habitats and biodiversity and increased risk of flash flooding due to increased run off.

Historically Garden sites are normally regarded as ‘brownfield’ under the government’s land classification of previously developed land and are often favoured sites for developers as they are situated in established residential areas and often present less physical issues than brownfield sites that are, for example, old industrial and contaminated sites.

As a result of the Report , Housing and Planning Minister, John Healey, has announced that he will be strengthening national policy advice to make it clearer that garden land is not necessarily suitable for development and that decisions to stop building on it should be taken at a local level.

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