A fight to stop the development of Solihull back gardens has sparked a national political battle over leafy neighbourhoods and "soulless" housing.

The issue was made a key election battleground for Conservatives yesterday with the launch of a campaign to block Government policies classifying small plots of green space as brownfield sites.

The Tory campaign to protect England's gardens and suburbs from being over-developed had roots in Solihull, the party's parliamentary candidate for the borough said.

Maggie Throup said activists campaigned for years to build more family homes rather than "poky one-bedroom flats" in the borough.

Developments which have "changed the face" of Solihull include the building of flats on Dansford Lane and demolition of homes on Warwick Road, near Solihull town centre, where small plots have been developed into high-density flats.

Ms Throup was involved in the campaign to save Fowgay Hall, a battle lost when a Government inspector sided with developers. The popular historic building on White-fields Road will be demolished and replaced with a 14-unit, three-storey apartment block.

"We have fought this battle in Solihull for some time but Government policy makes it increasingly difficult," she said. "Our campaign is being very well received. As well as saving gardens, we want to ensure new homes are ecofriendly, and remove rules stopping new homes with sufficient parking and gardens."

Shadow Communities Secretary and Tory MP for Meriden, Caroline Spelman, said Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott's planning policies "are leading to leafy gardens being dug up and replaced with soulless blocks of flats".

"The price of family homes is artificially inflated due to developers being forced to build flats," she added.

Other aspects of the campaign include a plan to give communities a say on where homes are built and abolish unelected regional assemblies. A council tax revaluation would be scrapped.

This week, Tory leader David Cameron said they were considering offering millions of council tenants the chance to convert rents into mortgages.

The party published research showing Labour giving the green light to "garden grabbing" planning applications.

However, Communities Minister Baroness Andrews said the housing plans were "another Cameron flip flop".

She said: "He told us he wanted to ditch the NIMBY image now he's launching the ultimate NIMBY campaign."