Councillors outraged about Government’s “garden grabbing” decision

Kingston’s Liberal Democrat administration has condemned the Government's decision to remove protection measures for back gardens from the Planning Act.

Following a discussion of Lord’s amendments to the Planning Bill in Parliament on 25 November - Local Government Minister John Healey MP claimed that Councils had the statutory powers to intervene in housing developments. He urged MPs to vote against measures which would have given local authorities greater power to protect back gardens.

Cllr Simon James, Executive Member for Planning and Regeneration: “I am outraged by Mr Healey’s decision.”

Kingston’s Liberal Democrat Councillors have been campaigning for over a year about bizarre government rules which designate back gardens as brown field sites, making it easy for property developers to purchase properties, demolish the houses and then use the gardens to build high density properties.

Cllr James added: “Current government regulations force us to grant planning permission for developments which destroy the borough’s back gardens, or refuse it and risk developers trying to claim costs from council tax payers on appeal.”

Following the Government’s rejection of the “garden grabbing” provision to the Planning Bill, Mr Healey has promised to set up an inquiry into the issue in the new year.

Cllr Vicki Harris, Chair of the Development Control Committee explained: “Mr Healey has not been in favour of enabling Councillors to make the planning decisions that are right for our neighbourhoods. This inquiry gives us the opportunity to convince him otherwise.

“Councillors will be collecting hard evidence to demonstrate the problems we have had in the Royal Borough. Under current law, we are simply unable to oppose backland developments.”

Cllr Mary Reid (Lib Dem), Co-Chair of the South of the Borough Neighbourhood Committee said: “I have been running a petition on the Council’s website about “garden grabbing”.

“It is a big issue for the Royal Borough. We have so many developers interested in buying up and building on Kingston’s beautiful gardens. They are important social and ecological green corridors and the Council should be allowed to protect them for future generations.”

She added: “We will be supporting the government’s inquiry. I just hope Mr Healey starts listening to sense.”

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