Azara Blog: Suddenly everybody is against "garden-grabbing"

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Date published: 2010/01/20

The BBC says:

The government has promised to act against "garden-grabbing" by property developers, after a report showed it was a problem in many parts of England.

Fifty of 127 councils who responded to a survey said building on previous green or empty land was a concern.
Garden-grabbing refers to the practice of building homes on open land attached to existing urban or suburban houses, which increases population density and, campaigners say, damages the character of an area.

As part of government-commissioned research, academics at Kingston University sent a survey to 363 planning authorities in England.

Of the 127 who responded, 50 said it was an issue in their areas. Of these, just seven had specific policies in place to deal with it.
Shadow communities secretary Caroline Spelman said: "Labour ministers are in denial that the problems of garden-grabbing stem from their own planning rules.

"Thanks to regulations issued by John Prescott, leafy gardens across the country are being dug up, and replaced with blocks of flats and high-density buildings that spell disaster for the local environment and local infrastructure."

For the Lib Dems, Sarah Teather said: "This tired Labour government has been stuck in power for so long it is now having to go back and fix its own mistakes.

"John Prescott effectively sold off precious green space across the country and now that half of it has already disappeared, Labour is belatedly stumbling into action."

It is unbelievable what kind of poor analysis you get on the BBC sometimes. So out of 363 planning authorities, a whole 50 (less than 14 percent) said there was "an issue". There is no attention at all as to what "an issue" even means. Instead we just get the standard ten seconds of response from the opposition parties to spout their uncontested propaganda.

It is not too surprising that the Tories are against "garden-grabbing". They are the party that believes there should be no house building anywhere in the south of England, and being against "garden-grabbing" is one small part of that general view.

On the other hand, it is amazing that the Lib Dems have jumped on the same band wagon. It's getting harder and harder for anyone to choose between the three main parties these days because they all parrot the same things.

There is a serious issue here, which unfortunately the BBC and the political parties have decided not to address. So it is believed by many urban planners that high-density building is exactly what we should be aiming for, since allegedly this is more "sustainable". That is largely a bogus claim, but none of the political parties seems to be willing to push for policies which will counteract that, in particular introducing standards for minimal house sizes and minimal garden sizes.

It's all very well claiming you are against "garden-grabbing" but until you have a proper proposal for development to replace that, then it is just complaining with meaningless slogans. Well, to be fair to the Tories, they want to solve the problem by not having a housing shortage in the first place, and to achieve that they would like to kick all foreigners out of the country (well, except for Lord Ashcroft, the foreign donor who is buying them the coming election).

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