New figures reveal true extent of "garden grabbing"

New figures show that more than one third of new houses in West Sussex are being built on the sites of former homes and their back gardens.


The figures, which were revealed by the Government in response to a Parliamentary Question, reveal that all districts in West Sussex, except one, have seen an increase in the number of new properties being built on what was previously residential land, or so-called "garden grabbing". 

"Garden grabbing", where developers buy up properties with gardens to demolish them and then replace them with several smaller properties, or, in some cases, whole apartment blocks, not only has a detrimental effect on the character of a neighbourhood but also increases the strain on local infrastructure and facilities.

The percentage of properties being built on such land in the Adur district rose from 1 to 10 percent between 2004 and 2005.  Chichester also saw an increase from 44 to 48 per cent.  Arun, Mid Sussex and Worthing saw the biggest increases in the percentage of new houses being built on the footprints of former homes and gardens with dramatic rises of 32, 29 and 22 per cent respectively. 

Horsham was the only district in West Sussex to see a fall in the percentage of new houses being built on previously residential land, with a decrease of 3 per cent from 27 to 24 per cent.

The figures have been released to coincide with the return of a Conservative Private Member's Bill to the House of Commons on Friday (15 June), which aims to close the loophole that defines gardens as brownfield sites and return to local councils the power to decide planning applications to develop gardens.

Under present planning rules, gardens are classified as brownfield sites - the same classification as former industrial and commercial property - and are subject to a presumption in favour of development.  This means that it is difficult for local councils to refuse planning permission without the risk that their decision is overturned by the Planning Inspectorate, which enforces Government planning policy.

Local councils are increasingly finding themselves under pressure to find space for new housing.  This is especially the case in West Sussex where the draft South East Plan proposes that an extra 58,000 new houses should be built in the county over the course of the next twenty years.

Nick Herbert commented: "While I am only too aware that there is a shortage of housing locally and that first time buyers and key public service workers increasingly struggle to get their feet on the housing ladder, garden grabbing is not the solution.

"Instead, we should work towards ensuring affordable housing in suitable and sustainable locations, determined not by Whitehall but by democratically elected councils who know and understand the areas they represent.

"I support this Bill and hope that it will represent the first step in returning vital planning powers to local communities."



Notes to Editors

1. The Land Use (Gardens Protection etc) Bill will be presented to the House of Commons for its Second Reading on Friday (15 June) by Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Caroline Spelman MP.

2. The text of the Bill can be found at

3. Figures for the percentage of new dwellings built on previously residential land in 2004 were obtained in a Written Answer to Parliamentary Question 80713, Hansard column 1300w, 6 July 2006.

4. The latest figures for 2005 were obtained in a Written Answer to Parliamentary Question 136372, Hansard column 1524w, 24 May 2007.