A Government pledge to halt “garden grabbing” has been criticised after planners said the controversial practice was still going ahead.
Solihull Council permitted two developments on back gardens earlier this month with some planners claiming more schemes could now be pushed through the planning system.
The approval came despite the Government’s attempt to tighten legislation in a bid to stop the practice.
It reclassified gardens as greenfield land rather than brownfield land, which was supposed to give local authorities greater powers to prevent inappropriate development.
Coun Alan Martin, who sits on Solihull’s planning committee, fears that more applications for building on gardens could be submitted following the recent approval for developer Damson Homes to build two properties in Prospect Lane. A second developer has also been given permission to build a set of three-storey flats on Meeting House Lane in Balsall Common.
Coun Alan Martin said the plans had been “within the law”.
He said: “If we’d turned it down and it had gone to appeal, I believe we would have lost and the people opposing it would in a way end up footing some of the bill for that.”
He added it was possible there would be more applications from others wishing to develop their gardens.
But committee chairman John Windmill disputed Coun Martin’s claims and said he expected more applications would be turned down in future than approved.
He said other garden-based schemes had been rejected, adding: “We had deferred the decision previously and the advice we received was that there was no ban on garden development.
“We’ve got to expect that there will be development for housing in the future, the question is how much and what do we build on – the inner urban area or the outskirts?”
Geoffrey Pollard, aged 68, who lives near Prospect Lane, said: “We all thought that garden grabbing had been discontinued by the new Government and that there wasn’t a chance of the application going through.
“At the moment the law is exactly the same as it was before the new government came in. We were very disappointed the scheme went through.”
Marie Pym, aged 80, whose house borders the development, added: “The council are supposed to think of existing residents as well. I suppose it’s valuable to them for the council tax rates.”
Last month Damson Homes became the first developer in Birmingham to achieve planning permission for a garden-based scheme since the Government’s new policy was announced. It plans to build 14 houses in Robin Hood Lane.
Solihull councillor Joe Tildesley (Con, St Alphege) is now calling for a change in the law. He said: “The Government may have made noises about garden grabbing but nothing really has changed. In Solihull we’ve got to change the way we deal with these cases. We need to debate this matter and hammer out a policy.
“I accept we need more houses in Solihull and that people want to come and live here. But we shouldn’t spoil the very nature of Solihull, which is the danger of garden grabbing.”
Damson Homes co-director Dean Chudasama said the firm had already received seven deposits on the Hall Green houses.
He said the change in classification could “make things difficult” for developers.