Parliament has now broken up for the summer recess. This means that there is no legislative business in the House of Commons so that MPs can spend a few weeks focusing completely on their constituencies.
I am certainly looking forward to spending some quality time here in Solihull. But it’s very often when meeting local residents and talking about the challenges they face that I am most strongly reminded of the importance of my role in the House of Commons.
That’s why my last contribution before Parliament rose was to ask Jacob Rees-Mogg, the new Leader of the House, for his support to secure a full Commons debate, in Government time, on the problem of ‘garden grabbing’.
I’m sure that many of you are all too familiar with this phenomenon, but for those that haven’t come across it, ‘garden grabbing’ is the practice of developers exploiting the planning system to cram excessive numbers of new homes into existing communities – in the teeth of opposition from residents.
This can take several forms. Sometimes they’ll buy a large property outright, only to demolish it and build several new homes on the lot. On other occasions they will just buy part of a property – say, a garage or strip of garden – and use it to construct an access road to so-called “backland developments”, new homes built behind existing ones.
Over the past year I have supported numerous residents who have filed formal objections with the planning department at Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council. I have also worked hand-in-hand with councillors Katy Blunt and Joe Tildesley, who represent Olton and St Alphege two of our worst-affected communities. I will continue to give local action my full support.
It seems clear to me that the law as it stands has not struck the right balance between the need for more homes and the rights of existing residents and communities. It isn’t right that streets such as Stonor Park Road can have five new houses squeezed onto what was once back gardens.
Originally published in the Solihull Mail, 01/08/19.