Garden Grabbing

There was a piece in the Echo today about the number of ordinary gardens being used for housing in Basildon:

GARDENS are quickly disappearing in Basildon as developers use the land for seven out of ten new homes.

New statistics reveal 72 per cent of new Basildon homes were built on former garden sites in 2005 – the highest rate for any district in the east of England.

This indicates soaring levels of a practice widely referred to as “garden grabbing” – where property developers snap-up family houses with gardens, knock them down and replace them with dense apartment blocks on the same plot.

We’ve asked the fairly obvious question to the Rochford District Council this morning – what is the percentage figure for our district? They gave us a very quick response, even though it wasn’t very precise:

the information you require is in the Annual Monitoring Report, which can be found in the LDF evidence base on the website?the latest report is 2005/06 ? the information is that 188 of the 276 gross completions (68.12%) were on previously developed land for that year. However, we do not have a further breakdown to separate out garden land from all previously developed land.

So we can’t be sure yet just how many gardens we are losing here.

But this subject ties in with some articles on the BBC website last week:

…. the UK government now recommends that all new housing is built at 30-50 dwellings per hectare, more-or-less double the current density.

….. This will pack a lot more people into the same space than we currently do. It is perhaps the single most important piece of housing legislation for decades, yet it is not well known and the potential consequences of it have not been widely debated.

There are significant downsides to the alluring vision of the compact city. Evidence from the UK tells us that green space is one of the first casualties of high density urban development….

Scientists have shown that green spaces promote community togetherness, reduce crime, improve our physical health and enhance our psychological well-being. They promote inward investment into cities, and even increase house prices.

One or two councillors have used this sort of argument to say that we have to give up some Green Belt to avoid losing the leafy character of our existing towns. Well, whatever is decided after the consultation, we expect that some Green Belt will be given up somewhere.

We have to ensure that any Green Belt that is given up is developed sympathetically , and not crammed full of ugly buildings without any green spaces.

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