Back Garden Development Becomes Election Issue

24/08/2006 (source:

Ministers have rejected Opposition claims that government policy is forcing local planning authorities to allow increasingly high-density development of back gardens and suburban areas.

The Conservative Party has mounted a strong attack on government housing and planning policies and launched a campaign to safeguard gardens and encourage more family homes with gardens.

The party has accused the government of changing the planning rules by classifying gardens as brownfield sites. It has pledged to give these issues a frontline role in forthcoming local and national elections.

Caroline Spelman MP, shadow secretary of state for local government claimed there was growing concern "about how John Prescott's planning rules are leading to leafy gardens being dug up and replaced with soulless and ugly blocks of flats. The price off family homes is artificially inflated due to developers being forced to build flats".

The Conservative MP added that local people were "increasingly powerless to protect the character of their neighbourhood".

The party has quoted a letter to Conservative Party researchers from the House of Commons Library. The document states that increased housing targets in southern EngGroup and pressure for more new housing to be on previously developed Group have "encouraged local planning authorities to approve planning applications fore urban sites where houses have large gardens".

"There was enough in the guidance [in PPG 3 published in 2000] to justify developers appealing any refusal of this type of application with every chance of success," the letter said.

The Department for Communities and Local Government has dismissed the Conservative claims as "a load of rubbish".

Housing minister, Baroness Andrews, said: "The definition of brownfield Group has not changed since 1985 and the proportion of new homes on residential Group is lower than in the late 1980s. We are building far more homes than ever before on industrial and commercial sites."

She added: "Local authorities have powers to turn down inappropriate developments and the new planning guidance, published for consultation last December, has given them even stronger powers in this area to ensure new developments are of a much higher design and in appropriate locations, whilst safeguarding our important green space."

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