Rush is on to change farmland into gardens

A RUSH of planning applications to convert agricultural land into gardens has been seen as the rules are tightened on the change of use.

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Nine applications were in last week’s list, published in the Guernsey Press on Tuesday, with another four in the upcoming week’s list. Between them they are applying to convert 19,453sq. m of land into gardens – the equivalent of nearly three football pitches.

From 1 September, householders wanting to extend the domestic curtilage of their homes have to include biodiversity enhancement information showing the environmental benefits of the development in their planning application. The move follows a review and monitoring of applications for change of use of land to gardens.

But Deputy David De Lisle has said he did not feel the move went far enough. He is also calling for greater protection for agricultural land.

‘I’m very concerned,’ he said. ‘I think the change is not going far enough.’

He has submitted Rule 11 questions to Development & Planning Authority president Victoria Oliver to find out how much agricultural land has been changed to domestic curtilage since the introduction of the Island Development Plan about five years ago and whether the DPA would support more controls over the sales and lease of agricultural land.

Deputy De Lisle said there were worries that land was being bought and leased for non-agricultural uses such as recreation.

‘I’m asking for more regulation,’ he said.

It was confirmed that the slew of applications received over the last few weeks mostly covered those made ahead of the 1 September change.

A States spokeswoman said it was too early to say how the new policy was settling in.

‘The policy change appears to be working as intended and applications are being dealt with accordingly,’ she said, but noted that no applications had been decided under the new rules yet.

So far this year there have been 76 change of use applications published in the weekly listings. Three have been refused and four withdrawn, while 33 have been approved.

The rest are still pending.

Not all the approved applications show the area applied for. The 30 that did had a total area of 34,255sq. m – more than four-and-a-half football pitches.

However, it is notable that some of the approved applications were scaled back from the original proposals. Eight of the applications were only approved for reduced areas.

In one case an application to convert more 4,000sq. m. of Torteval agricultural land to garden was not deemed acceptable and was sent back to the applicant by the planners twice before they eventually approved a 200sq. m. change.

If all the approved applications were passed for the requested area, then nearly 50,000sq. m. would have been changed.

Between February and July 2016 – before the IDP was introduced – just nine applications were approved. The equivalent six-month period this year has seen 28 applications approved and some are still pending.

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