Garden Grabbing

Garden Grabbing - Solihull New
by Caroline  Spelman MP

I have used another Parliamentary tool called a Ten Minute Rule Bill to raise the issue of garden grabbing again because despite the Government's promises, it has not gone away as an issue. Readers will recall that I had a Private Members Bill last year which sought to redefine gardens as gardens in order to protect them rather than as brownfield sites which has made then a priority for development.

Once again I had good cross party support on this Bill from Members of Parliament as far away as Birkenhead, Cornwall and Stockton on Tees because it is not just an issue here in Solihull. About a year ago the Government made some changes to the guidance on planning law and claims this gives councils more power to protect gardens. But clearly this is not working as my postbag is still full of complaints from constituents about the threat and reality of planning applications to demolish family houses next door to them and blocks of flats to go up in their place.

There is one remarkable example in Marston Green at present where 71 dwellings are proposed on a site to replace two family houses. Of course I understand we need more homes but the luxury flats being built on these former garden sites are mostly beyond the pocket of those on the waiting list for housing and first time buyers.

There are plenty of genuine brownfield sites in the West Midlands as sadly the demise of manufacturing has give rise to many derelict industrial buildings, as well as former office blocks, no longer fit for purpose with the development of business parks. These really could become the new garden suburbs of the twenty first century if developers were directed to these sites rather than gardens as at present.

My Ten Minute Rule Bill was not voted down on March 18th so it has another chance to clear the legislative hurdle on June 13th. So let's hope between now and then the Government has a change of heart and agrees to call a spade a spade