Tories promise to save England's gardens

Tories promise to protect England's gardens from Labour planning rules
Tories promise to protect England's gardens from Labour planning rules

The Conservatives have fired the first shots in the campaign for next year's local elections by promising to protect England's gardens from being concreted over.

Shadow local government secretary Caroline Spelman said England's homes and gardens would be the "battleground" of next May's polls.

The Tories have today published a five-point plan on how they propose to stop the overdevelopment of the leafy suburbs.

It highlights the small print in government planning regulations which classes gardens as brownfield sites - which makes them eligible for future development - and pledges to scrap plans to allow the compulsory purchase of this land by councils.

The party would also encourage houses to be built instead of "pokey flats", scrap Whitehall rules against putting in sufficient parking and garden space, and give local communities more of a say in where new homes are built.

"As Tony Blair faces critical mid-term elections next May, England's homes and gardens will be the battleground," Ms Spelman declared.

"Only Conservatives will protect the character of England's neighbourhoods, and ensure we deliver the family homes that people actually want to live in."

Included in the Conservatives' campaign are also pledges to cancel plans for council tax revaluation and stop new taxes being levied on home improvements and gardens.

"If they're not going to build over your garden, Gordon Brown will tax it instead under his plans for a delayed, but still forthcoming, council tax revaluation," Ms Spelman said.

However, housing minister Baroness Andrews dismissed the plans, which come a day after David Cameron promised to extend the right to buy to allow more people to own their own property, as nothing but nimbyism.

"This is another Cameron flip flop. Six months ago he told us he wanted to ditch the Tories nimby image but now he's launching the ultimate nimby campaign," she said.

The peer insisted that classing gardens as brownfield did not automatically mean they were eligible for development, and stressed that the Tories' proposals on planning rules would only make it harder for people to get permission to renovate their home.

"Since 1997 we have seen big drops in building on greenfield land and big increases in building on former industrial and commercial land," she argued.

"Of course local authorities should turn down inappropriate development on back gardens just as in other locations.

"They already have powers to do so and these powers are being strengthened by new planning guidance ensuring new developments are of a much higher design and in appropriate locations, whilst safeguarding our important green space."


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