Garden grabbing policy dropped in revised London Plan

Creating new houses on Gardens and Back Land Sites in London is not always “Garden Grabbing” as it can sometimes be derisively described. To be successful this type of development does require evaluation and assessment, and careful consideration of the relevant issues.


So here’s a useful Overview of the Risks Involved.  There are the obvious ones such as Planning Consent, Party Wall Agreements, Construction Costs and the less obvious ones (but equally relevant) such as the Suitability of Plots, and Issues such as Access, Utilities, Restrictions, Land Ownership, etc.


For a specific analysis of a plot please contact the design studio and we will be happy to discuss a potential development with you and can also provide you with a copy of our publication ‘individual dwellings’ and a fact sheet on this topic.


Please Email with the title ‘Individual Dwellings’ for a copy of the publications.


Many outer London borough homes have abnormally large back gardens and extended ‘backland’ areas adjacent to them.   At first sight they would seem to be ideal for the construction of a new dwelling. However there are a number of potential hurdles to overcome to achieve a successful outcome and in this blog we run through the main issues to be aware of.


Ideal plots for this kind of development are those that can be described as anomalies within the ‘Urban Grain’.  By this we mean that a garden may be substantially larger than its neighbours, or of the garden sizes prevalent within the neighbourhood.  Street patterns can also determine or demonstrate these anomalies so accurate and up to date site-specific maps should be consulted.


The topography and orientation of a site are also important. It is common to reduce the impact of a new building by working with the existing land levels.  These can become an integral design component by for example, creating semi-subterranean buildings and/or designing low Impact environmentally friendly dwellings.


A new dwelling will need to be accessed from the public highway and permission may be required from the local council’s Highways department to create a new crossover. It is vital to ascertain whether access routes cross land or title owned by others as permission will be necessary in order to create a new access i.e. a driveway and whether the access allows for the routes of utilities below ground. The latter is commonplace in land bordering railway lines and/or land owned by utility companies.


Prospective developments must establish land ownership and any easements or rights of way within the land registry deeds. The title deeds for a property will set out any conditions that might restrict the development of a piece of land. Restrictions can be anything from rights of way to services within the ground. The title deeds can be obtained online from the land registry website.


It is important to double-check that no significant below ground services run beneath the site. This can be anything from a community sewer to a large electrical cable supplying power to a nearby substation. Comprehensive amenity drawings be obtained from mapping specialists who hold records provided by all the major utility companies


Many back land developments that are refused planning by the local authority are often successful at a second appeal stage. Planning appeals are submitted to and decided by the Planning Inspectorate. The Planning Inspectorate is an executive agency for the Department for Communities and Local Government. They are in turn informed by the NPPF (National Planning Policy Framework).


Our recent project ‘House in an Urban Woodland’ was granted planning consent in 2016 for the development of a large rear garden in the London Borough of Barnet after the initial Planning application was rejected. The project is one of a number of new dwelling developments on former garden or back land sites that the practice is currently working on.


Please Email with the title ‘Individual Dwellings’ for a copy of the residential brochure and the information sheet relating to garden or back land development.