News story

Garden grabbing concerns raised by new figures

New figures have laid bare concerns over the dramatic increase in the number of ‘gardens grabbed’ for development in the last 12 years.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government
Building site viewed through a fence

Decentralisation Minister Greg Clark said the statistics show the government was right to take immediate action to prevent unwanted garden grabbing by changing the planning rules.

The percentage of new homes built on previously residential land - which includes back gardens - has increased to 25%, up 14% since 1997, when only 1 in 10 homes was built on similar land.

Last month, Greg Clark changed the planning rules to give councils new powers to prevent unwanted garden grabbing by taking gardens out of the brownfield category that includes derelict factories and disused railway sidings.

Many councils had been left frustrated at the increasing amount of inappropriate development on gardens which they have been unable to prevent. Taking gardens out of the brownfield category will dramatically transform councils’ ability to prevent unwanted development on gardens where local people object and protect the character of their neighbourhoods.

Mr Clark said:

“For years local people were powerless to do anything about the blight of garden grabbing as the character of their neighbourhoods was destroyed and their wishes ignored.

“We can see from these statistics that last year an even higher proportion of homes were built on previously residential land, which includes back gardens. Building on gardens robs communities of green breathing space, safe places for children to play and havens for urban wildlife.

“It was ridiculous that gardens were classified in the same group as derelict factories and disused railway sidings. Now we’ve changed the classification of garden land, councils and communities will no longer have their decisions constantly overruled, and will have the power to work with industry to shape future development that is appropriate for their area.”

Dr Simon Thornton Wood, Director of Science and Learning at the Royal Horticultural Society said:

“We welcome any measure that protects the vital resource we know gardens to be. Gardens like parks, are the green lungs of cities, improving air quality, controlling air temperature and flood risk and providing a haven for wildlife. Beyond these very practical benefits of gardens we know that gardening is great for physical and mental health. That’s why we would like planning measures to go further than protecting existing gardens, to guarantee high quality green space and gardening opportunities in all new building developments, wherever they are.”

Richard Bashford - Project Manager, RSPB said:

“Gardens are mini nature reserves on our doorsteps and vital habitats for all sorts of wildlife. Many much loved species rely on green spaces like gardens, such as the song thrush and house sparrow, both of which have suffered massive declines in the last few years. House sparrow numbers have plummeted by over 60% and we have lost almost 75% of song thrushes. If more garden space is turned into buildings they will likely decline further and the wonder that children experience on the doorstep will dwindle.

“We hope that the new measures will protect the habitats of species that have become synonymous with English gardens and demonstrate a rich eco system in our own back yards such as frogs, toads and bumble bees.”

Further information

The proportion of new dwellings on previously residential land by local authority can be found at:

This is derived from the latest Land Use Change Statistics release which was published on Friday 30 July 2010.

The whole of any housing plot, including any garden, has been classed as ‘brownfield’ or previously developed land, in the same category and derelict factories and disused railway sidings. This incorporates development on previously residential land that includes gardens.

Reclassifying garden land will enable councils to protect gardens from inappropriate development by rejecting planning applications for development that is objected to by the local community and spoils the character of neighbourhoods.

The new government recognises the concerns that some people have about the loss of gardens, and is amending Planning Policy Statement 3 to remove gardens from the classification of ‘previously developed land’.

Published 5 August 2010