'Garden grab' figures published

Image caption,
Councils have been given more powers to stop building on gardens

Plans to limit development on gardens in England have been backed up by new figures, a government minister says.

One in seven new homes between 1994 and 2009 were built on previously residential land, including gardens, the data shows.

Communities Minister Greg Clark said "garden grabbing" rose under the previous government.

Labour has said its measures to increase housing density in city centres saw more families housed.

It has accused the coalition government of "protecting the interests of millionaires" over ordinary families who are desperate for housing, particularly in the overcrowded South East.

The South East tops the table for building on previously residential land, with 32% of new homes built on such sites between 2006 and 2009. The national average for England in the same period is 25%, up from 11% between 1994 and 1997.

The North East saw the least "garden grabbing" with just 15% of new homes built on previously residential land between 2005 and 2009, the figures from the Department of Communities and Local Government show.

In June, Mr Clark changed planning laws to give councils greater powers to stop developers building homes on gardens.

The changes took gardens out of the brownfield planning category that includes derelict factories and disused railway sidings.

The government claims many local councils had been left frustrated by their inability to prevent developers building on residential gardens, when local people protest about it.

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."

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