Gardens & wildlife

Cat Creep 2006 garden grabbing

Details of the Cat Creep Proposal refused in 2006.

On 8th June 2006, BBC Radio 4's "You and Yours" featured an item on Garden Grabbing.

A residential area in Guildford with period Victorian and Edwardian architecture and distinctive mature trees (i.e. similar in this regard to Round Hill) is also in danger of losing its conservation features through unsuitable development proposals. Some have already been passed and both local residents and their local Councillor, who is also a Member of the Planning Committee, fear a domino effect and a complete transformation of the area.

Note that the applicant who wishes to develop land to the rear of 2 to 10 Richmond Road i.e. the section of green ribbon to the east of the Cats Creep, is claiming that her proposed development site is "Brownfield".

The main area of the development site is greenfield

In fact, it covers two separate freeholds. Only the strip of the site adjacent to 10 Richmond Road is "brownfield" as it is part of the applicant's garden.

The section of the proposed development site to the rear of 2 to 8 Richmond Road is on a separate freehold and, in the absence of a structure such as a house, qualifies as "Greenfield" i.e. it has never been previously developed.

Why is this an important distinction?"

The government has announced that 60 % of all new housing is to be built on "Brownfield" sites, but each year as many as 20,000 of these brownfield site homes are actually being built in back gardens.

Councils have got very demanding housing numbers which they've got to try to achieve. The planning guidance nationally puts Brownfield sites top of the list for housing development.

Therefore if Brighton and Hove City Council are taken in by the applicant's false classification of her land, even if Members of the Planning Applications Sub-Committee refuse her proposal she can then appeal against the decision. The final decision will then be made by the Government's Planning Inspectorate and she may have a good chance of winning if local factors are not taken into account. Round Hill residents must therefore insist that the planning status of most of the development site as "Greenfield" is confirmed by the Council's Development Control before this application goes any further.

What about the need for affordable homes?"

Garden grabbing is favoured by developers since they have no obligation to provide any affordable accommodation if they are proposing fewer than 15 units of accommodation.

The Housing Minister, who contributed to the You and Yours item, argues that increasing the supply of private market housing has the knock-on effect of easing the housing crisis. However, in resorts like Brighton or Alicante, popular with buyers from all over the world as well as with property investors who already have at least one home, increasing the residential population can be disastrous for those hoping to get onto the housing ladder. Extra private market housing requires new shops and additional services. This multiplier effect increases the pressure on land and helps house prices to escalate.

It is relatively easy for builders to meet the Deputy Prime Minister's challenge of erecting a house for £60,000, if that sum covers the cost of construction alone. It is the price of land in areas where it is in greatest demand, which pushes up the selling price of the house to four or five times that total.

As land in Brighton and Hove becomes even scarcer and the pavements of our shopping centres even more crowded, it becomes horribly expensive for the Council to purchase space to meet the infrastructural needs of a larger city population. All residents pick up the bill in the form of higher Council tax - the privilege of living in a popular resort.

While it is easy for a company to increase the supply of umbrellas in response to growing demand, the supply of land remains finite.
The late Dr. E. F. Schumacher, author of Small is Beautiful addressed this very problem in his 1973 pamphlet Think About Land. All the profits from this thoughtful publication by a top economic adviser went to a charity for the homeless.

Schumacher outlines a system (compatible with mixed market economics rather than Devil Take The Hindmost versions of capitalism) which would ease the problem of homelessness very quickly. It is a way of stopping those already on the housing ladder from "cornering the supply" of a limited commodity i.e. from using land for windfall gains at the expense of everybody else. Schumacher's scheme to prevent large sums of money being made through exploitation of the scarcity of land, would help the homeless as well as reducing the harmful impacts on both conservation areas and the overburdened infrastructures of existing communities.

Details of the Cat Creep Proposal refused in 2006.
This page was last updated by Ted on 30-Nov-2013
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