Garden grabbing

On 9th June 2010 the Government implemented the commitment made in the Coalition Agreement to decentralise the planning system by giving Local Authorities the opportunity to prevent overdevelopment of neighbourhoods and ‘garden grabbing’.

The Government  amended Planning Policy Statement 3: Housing (PPS3) to exclude residential gardens from the definition of ‘previously developed land’, commonly referred to as brownfield land.

As one of the central aims of PPS3 is to give priority to development on previously developed land, the exclusion of residential gardens was widely seen to call an end to ‘garden grabbing’.

Overnight many of our  developer clients saw the chances of their potential development sites seemingly evaporate. Nevertheless, we pressed ahead with a couple of schemes to test the reaction of the Planning Inspectorate, and on 26th July we won our first new build residential appeal since the introduction of the PPS3 amendments.

The outline application was for a modest bungalow on garden land in Biddulph. It had attracted mass objections from local neighbours and Staffordshire Moorlands District Council cited over-development and impact on amenity as reasons for refusal.

We lodged a robust Written Representation appeal, including additional representations on the PPS3 changes. Three months later the Inspector allowed the appeal and concluded in his decision letter:

“The revised Planning Policy Statement 3: Housing has excluded private gardens from the definition of previously-developed land. However, the site is within a settlement where development is acceptable in principle. I do not consider that the proposal should be resisted as unacceptable “garden grabbing” in that it would accord with the character of the area and would not significantly change the living conditions of neighbouring occupiers”

Since this decision, we have noted several other Inspectors making similar determinations.  In a case in Cornwall the Inspector again noted that garden land was no longer defined as previously developed, but he felt that the case in front of him did not exclusively depend on this ruling. He concluded that the case was acceptable backland development noting accord with the present settlement pattern.

Whilst the July amendments to PPS3 have given Local Authorities more reason to refuse garden developments, the above appeals suggest that if the proposal is sensible and within the settlement boundary then there is every chance that permission will be secured.

If you have a piece of land that you are considering developing and want to understand your options please do not hesitate to contact the team via to see how we can best help.