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Planning Court to hear key case on residential gardens and brownfield land

The Planning Court has today begun hearing a case over whether some private residential gardens can be considered brownfield land.

The case of Dartford Borough Council v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (CO/4129/2015) has implications for owners of residential gardens, and could potentially signal a return to so-called “garden grabbing”. 

Dartford is seeking to quash a decision by a planning inspector, who found that only residential gardens “in built up areas” are greenfield land, whereas others, in the countryside, are previously developed land (also known as “brownfield”).

The Communities Secretary is resisting the challenge, relying on the same reasoning as the inspector.

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Ashley Bowes of Cornerstone Barrristers who is representing Dartford BC, said ahead of the hearing that the Department for Communities and Local Government’s position was “surprising” given that the present Secretary of State, Greg Clark, in his role as Planning Minister in 2010, amended PPS3 “Housing” to exclude residential gardens from the definition of brownfield land.

Bowes added that the amendment was accompanied by a written ministerial statement to the House of Commons and a letter to all chief planning officers, explaining that local communities now had the power to stop “garden grabbing”.

He said: “This case has the potential to radically alter the status of private residential gardens in the countryside, from greenfield to brownfield, increasing their prospects for development. A good many people will be watching the outcome with interest."

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