Builders should keep locals sweet

The need for new housing is well documented. And the need to protect the character of local areas from the negative effects of new housing is equally well documented.

The recent failure of the little-known Protection of Private Gardens (Housing Development) Bill in Parliament represented a setback in this regard.

One of the reasons for the high house prices seen in markets across the UK is the imbalance of supply with demand. The Barker report spoke of a need to build 120,000 extra homes each year just to stabilise house price growth.

A nice perk for people who have large gardens has always been to use some of their garden to build houses on. This has always gone on but rising house prices have provided an added incentive.

A further incentive has been the designation of gardens as brownfield land, and the government’s encouragement of development on such land. As a consequence, it can often be far easier to obtain planning permission for such a development than one in a more rural location.

This has attracted the attention of commercial developers and suburbs are now often characterised by developers buying large, old houses and knocking them down to build a number of smaller homes. In Croydon, 62% of new developments are on such plots.

The Bill, had it been successful, would have required planning authorities to refuse planning applications for developments in gardens that are out of character with the local area.

This may not appear to be big news. But one of the main reasons people who oppose developments give is that the proposals will create something that will be an eyesore and have a detrimental impact on the area.

If developers could be encouraged to build in a way that recognised this and sought to build properties that made a positive contribution to the local environment they may find a lot of the opposition dissipates.

Due to the arcane Parliamentary process that the Bill was introduced under it never stood any chance of coming into force. But the MP who promoted it has said he will continue his campaign to ensure development reflects local characteristics and environmental issues.

If the government is serious about increasing the numbers of houses that are built, and if it is serious about promoting both high density developments and the greater use of brownfield land it needs to ensure building is supported by the local community.

Requiring builders to ensure that they only build in a manner that reflects the local area would make this support much easier to obtain.