A top city planner has hit out at the Government’s plans to outlaw so-called ‘garden-grabbing’ and scrap minimum housing density targets.
Decentralisation Minister Greg Clark is giving local councils and communities immediate power to prevent the building of new homes in back gardens and to decide what types of homes are suitable for their area.
The Government will be amending PPS3 to remove the classification of gardens as ‘previously developed land’, therefore removing them from brownfield designation. Mr Clark has also announced scrapping the minimum density target of 30 dwellings per hectare. Councils will now be able to decide what level of density is appropriate for their area.
Planning director Mike Davies, from Drivers Jonas Deloitte, said the announcements appeared to go against previous pre-election statements on development issues.
“Today’s announcements appear to contradict the Government’s attempt to protect the countryside from development and provide ‘power to the people’.
“Mr Clark has said this is just the beginning of ‘wholesale reform’ to the planning system. Having stated that the Government wish to give more planning powers back to councils and communities, the decision to block people from building new homes on their own land completely undermines this.
“Private home owners should have the right to choose whether to develop their land for housing and this move makes it significantly more restrictive.
“While in some communities the extent of ‘garden grabbing’ has been quite extensive, we have to take account of where the market demand for new homes exists.
“Furthermore, councils have an armoury of other Development Control measures which, if properly applied, are fully effective in preventing inappropriate town cramming.
“We are desperately short of land and in many cases demand is highest in existing residential areas.
“Denying individuals the right to develop their land to create much needed new homes simply does not make sense, particularly for those with properties situated on large plots of land where new properties can be appropriately incorporated into the street scene.
“So called ‘garden grabbing’ has proven to be an important part of the regeneration of many urban areas over recent years and assisted in reducing the pressure on greenfield sites. It is extremely disappointing to see the Government halting such development when it can offer a sustainable alternative to urban sprawl.
“The scrapping of the minimum density target for developments could further intensify the need for new greenfield land releases and by removing this clause in PPS3, the Government is effectively sanctioning the construction of lower density new developments which will only exacerbate the current shortage in housing land. For example, how will planning authorities be able to prevent a single well-designed dwelling on a large plot from coming forward on the basis of the density being too low?
“This approach will place more pressure on the need for greenfield land to be released for development and with ‘garden grabbing’ also no longer an option, this will lead to an increase in urban sprawl and more of the countryside being earmarked for development.
“The Government’s approach to protecting the countryside seems to have overlooked the benefits that brownfield targets and density standards have created. They provided important measures through which we can protect our countryside and fuel regeneration in urban areas. To place greater restrictions on housing development at a time when the market was beginning to show signs of recovery is misguided.
“While today’s announcements may please some, the Government has not explained how these measures will avoid the inevitable pressures that development will continue to place on greenfield sites.
“Far from being the beginning of ‘wholesale reform’ they are removing powers from landowners, likely to cause an increase in urban sprawl and creating a very real threat to our countryside.”