Gardens & wildlife

Garden Grabbing

Proposed development within a garden

Under Environment Secretary John Prescott, gardens attached to homes were classified as brownfield sites. This led to a considerable increase in the number of gardens grabbed for development. The loss of urban green space was very damaging to communities, especially neighbourhoods lacking in public open space.

Happily, in 2010, one of the first acts of the new coalition government (under decentralisation minister Greg Clark) was to reinstate private gardens as greenfield sites.

See www.gov.uk/government/news/garden-grabbing-concerns-raised-by-new-figures

In June 2021, the following application was registered with Brighton and Hove City Council, to develop a garden within the Round Hill Conservation Area - a neighbourhood lacking in any public open space such as parks, woodlands or recreation grounds:

BH2021/02065 | Erection of 1no single storey, two bedroom dwelling (C3) to the rear with associated works. | 7 Richmond Road Brighton BN2 3RL.

Click here to read the public comments on the application from local residents and to view the applicant's supporting documents. Included in the latter is the applicant's plan of existing backland developments. However, backland sites which were formerly industrial (e.g. laundries) and separate freeholds do not equate with the principle of development being conceded within private gardens. Click here to comment yourself.

How can local Councils help?

In 2010, Greg Clark changed the planning rules to give councils new powers to prevent unwanted garden grabbing by taking gardens out of the brownfield category that includes derelict factories and disused railway sidings.

Many councils had been left frustrated at the increasing amount of inappropriate development on gardens which they have been unable to prevent. Taking gardens out of the brownfield category will dramatically transform councils’ ability to prevent unwanted development on gardens where local people object and protect the character of their neighbourhoods.

The key words in Greg Clark's press release are "where local people object" and "will dramatically transform councils' ability to prevent unwanted development".

What are the policies on garden grabbing?

See National Planning Policy Framework Feb 2019 section 70

70. ..Plans should consider the case for setting out policies to resist inappropriate development of residential gardens, for example where development would cause harm to the local area.

In the context of Round Hill, which is fully developed, allowing garden grabbing  would cause harm to the local area - in our case, a conservation area. See NOTES (below) on Richmond Road.

The character of the Round Hill Conservation Area is largely derived from the original geometric street layout and the green spaces in between, which form arcs and segments. This remains remarkably intact after 150 years, yet a precedent of allowing garden infill could open the floodgates resulting in a loss of the urban green space which contributes so much to the area's amenity value.

Extracts from public comment 29 June 2021 second one down

The proposed development would significantly harm the character and appearance of the Round Hill Conservation Area, contrary to development plan policies.

The design of the proposed house, because of its proportions and materials would relate unsympathetically to the group of five semi-detached villas and their setting and would be contrary to the character and appearance of these villas and the Round Hill Conservation Area.

The applicant has failed to provide sufficient information to validate and thereafter determine the application and sufficient details to allow a proper assessment of the proposed development's impact. Contrary to national validation requirements relating to designated areas such as CAs, the applicant has not submitted a Design & Access Statement. 

Also lacking are the necessary assessments to validate claims as to the impact of the proposal on trees, drainage, energy / sustainability, ecology / biodiversity, design and access and heritage. It is highly likely that the living room - a deep and narrow single aspect room lit from a single set of north facing patio doors a half storey below existing ground level - will fall below BRE sunlight and daylight standards. The quality of the internal accommodation would be extremely poor. No independent Heritage Statement is provided. The applicant's Heritage Statement is inadequate in both scope and detail. The application property was one of the first houses to be built in Round Hill (circa 1865) and is shown on the OS plan of 1875.

What can local residents do?

  • 1. Click here to read the comments of other residents
  • 2. Click here to comment yourself.
  • 3. Tick the categories Adversely affects the CA, Residential amenity, Additional traffic, Traffic and highways, Overdevelopment
  • 4. Ask the Council not to create a precedent by conceding the principle of development in private gardens as this would open the floodgates and lead to similar applications. Don't be put off by the developer's map of "existing backland development" because this shows development on brownfield sites and development on freeholds where there were no homes. The precedent we are trying to avoid is "garden grabbing". If this became the acceptable norm, loss of urban greenspace would be considerable and our street infrastructure would no longer be able to cope.
  • 5. Reiterate any points in other objections which you find convincing.


Richmond Road is part of the town corridor of the South Downs Nature Improvement Area as recognised in the Brighton and Hove City Plan. See City Plan Part Two Scoping Document 7.6 and 7.7.

Where a Nature Improvement Area has been identified in a Local Plan consideration should be given to specifying the types of development that may be appropriate in the area.

See also Brighton and Hove City Plan Part Two page 108
Policy DM37 Green Infrastructure and Nature Conservation:

Development proposals will be required to demonstrate that they safeguard or contribute to the existing multifunctional network of Green Infrastructure; the connections between spaces within and beyond the City; ensure that the ecosystems services of the area are retained, and complement UNESCO Biosphere objectives.

Proposals must seek to protect and prevent damaging impacts to the following and, where possible, seek to enhance:

* the Nature Improvement Area

This page was last updated by Ted on 03-Jul-2021
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Gardens & wildlife