Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Green Fields and Brown Gardens

Before John Prescott’s current set of difficulties emerged he was getting it in the neck over this: emerged during consultation over the government’s new planning guidelines PPS3 that back gardens are considered to be brownfield sites. The implication is that gardens sold off for housing development would be included within the developers target that 70% of new housing should be built on brownfield sites. Some felt this was a cheat. In fact gardens were considered to be brownfield land under the old set of guidance PPG3 so it’s not really news at all. But it’s raised an interesting debate. Why do we people object to Greenfield development? Some object on grounds of urban sprawl others on grounds of biodiversity. The issue of developing new housing on old gardens divides them. It turns out that back gardens particularly big unkempt ones are havens of biodiversity. Many native insects, birds and small mammals live in them. Farmland on the other hand, particularly arable land, is pretty sterile on an biodiversity level. Monoculture crops, large fields with few hedgerows as well as fertilisers pesticides and herbicides mean that little lives in them except the crop that is being grown. So if you want to protect biodiversity may be building on farmland is OK. Bringing empty homes back into use however raises no such dilemas.

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