Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Gardon plot availability

 The demise of garden plots may not be upon us

On 9th June amid much fanfare the government announced it was ending ‘garden grabbing’. The media eagerly interpreted this as meaning there would be no more building in gardens. But, what does the change in policy really mean and does it signal the end of self-build as we know it? Maybe not.
The relevant change made to the house-building guidance is to take private residential gardens, parks, recreation grounds and allotments out of the definition of previously developed land or ‘brownfield’, on which at least 60% of all new house-building is expected to take place. What difference will this make? Well, government guidance said (and still says) that there was no presumption all previously-developed land was suitable for housing development or that the whole of the site could be built on anyway. The ‘brownfield’ classification didn’t over ride other polices, such as countryside protection or preserving the privacy of existing houses. In response to ‘garden grabbing’ accusations, the last government pointed out in January this year that councils already had powers to prevent inappropriate building in gardens.
'Councils now have the power to protect gardens from inappropriate development - but the new guidance doesn’t say anywhere that gardens can't be built on'
The statements which accompanied the new guidance said only that councils would have the power to protect gardens from inappropriate development - the new guidance doesn’t say anywhere that gardens cannot be built on. The thrust of several proposed planning reforms is to give power to councils to set their own rules so we shall have to see what approach each council chooses to adopt for its area as new policy documents are drawn up. Most councils have existing policies which permit houses to be built on suitable sites inside the built-up areas of towns and villages. That’s likely to continue because the alternatives are for acute housing shortages leading to astronomic house prices with people sleeping ten to a room or building on 'greenfield' sites outside towns, which was even less popular with the public than building in gardens. A research report by Kingston University last year found that building on back gardens was not a widespread, national or growing problem.

This change in policy has the ring of a new government giving its supporters a headline to cheer about and, no doubt, some councils will use the new guidance as an excuse to turn down some locally unpopular garden planning applications. No one yet knows where this will end – least of all government ministers – and we shall have to see how councils react. Houses were being built in gardens long before the current or previous versions of this guidance existed. The chances are that garden building will continue for many years yet. Rumours of the death of garden self-builds may yet prove to have been greatly exaggerated.

Roy Speer, Planning Consultant and co-author of How to Get Planning Permission and How to Find and Buy a Building Plot


Monday, June 14, 2010

How to find and buy a building plot

A new edition of the best-selling book on finding plots has been published by Ovolo Books. Priced at £15.95 the new edition is bang up to date and contains great advice on finding consented land or land on which to obtain consent