The purpose of planning regulations was originally to protect the best characteristics of our countryside and the most attractive features of its towns, one of which was the ubiquity of gardens.
It is now apparent, however, that the Labour government sees those regulations as a way to increase housing developments – regardless of the cost to England's green and pleasant land.
When The Sunday Telegraph revealed several years ago that John Prescott, as deputy prime minister, had issued a change to English planning regulations with the innocuous title "PPS3", it was difficult to appreciate its significance. What the new measure did was simultaneously to require councils to approve a higher density of development, and to redefine gardens as "brownfield land". In other words, Mr Prescott gave the green light to the replacement of thousands of gardens by new houses: as we report today, records obtained from 42 councils show that between 2003 and 2008, they granted planning permission for 26,688 new homes on the gardens and grounds of existing dwellings.
If that trend has been reproduced across Britain, it will mean that more than 210,000 new homes have been built on gardens over the past five years. And while we appreciate the need to expand our housing stock, and to provide more affordable housing for young families, no one can be pleased at this result except the developers. Just like Labour's other changes to the planning laws, Mr Prescott's decision has made a bad system worse – and covered areas that were once full of flowers and well‑kept lawns with a rash of ugly buildings. Seldom can so much beauty have been destroyed, to so little point. I just feel sorry for young children growing up without appreciation of gardening.