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New figures expose soaring levels of 'garden grabbing' - Harriett Baldwin

16th June 2007

One in five new homes is being built on land that was previously a garden, according to new Government figures.

The statistics from show soaring levels of 'garden grabbing' - the practice where property developers snap up family houses with gardens, knock them down and replace them with dense apartment blocks on the same plot. The number of homes being built on land that was previously a garden has risen by a third since 1997.

In the West Midlands, 16% of all new homes are built on previously residential land, up from 11% in 1997.

Under planning rules introduced by John Prescott, gardens are classed as brownfield sites - just like a derelict factory or railway siding - meaning a presumption in favour of development. As a result, it is difficult for local councils to refuse planning permission without the risk that their decision is overturned by the Bristol-based Planning Inspectorate, which enforces Government planning policy.

The loophole has led to mature family homes being demolished and replaced by apartment blocks and carparks covering the whole footprint of the site - house and garden included.

In an ongoing campaign, Conservatives are pledging to help protect local gardens, by changing planning rules to give stronger protection to green spaces and allow communities to maintain the character of local neighbourhoods.

Harriett Baldwin said:

"Across West Worcestershire, and particularly in Malvern, with its Victorian homes with good-sized gardens, there is growing concern about gardens disappearing under concrete regardless of local opinion. This is the effect of Labour's planning rules, which have put residential gardens on a par with derelict factories and gasworks, and which have triggered a wave of unpopular and unsustainable development.

"The character of neighbourhoods is being fundamentally changed in an unplanned and unsustainable way - with no concern for the environment or the lack of infrastructure.

"Gardens which are a rich source of biodiversity are increasingly being concreted over to make way for high blocks of flats, when the real demand is for family homes with sufficient parking spaces and areas for children to play. Gordon Brown now needs to listen to the wave of protest across the country and close this planning loophole."

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