BREEZING back into the office after a week in southern Armenia I cheerfully greeted the South London girls who run the office and asked what issues had arisen during my days away.

I expected the in tray to be full of comments on George Bush and Iran, UK assistance to Greece in their time of crisis, the latest kerfuffle about the European reform treaty, troop deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan or the Climate Camp at Heathrow Airport.

Actually the largest number of emails, letters and telephone calls related to the latest scourge to threaten our quality of life in Ealing North.

For quite a time I've been picking up signs of a real emerging problem with outbuildings being put up at the end of people's gardens.

Initially these buildings were tool sheds or summer houses. In these more affluent times people have chosen to build gyms, pool rooms or even saunas at the end of their gardens, but something more sinister and damaging is happening now.

People are building sheds in the garden and turning them into illegally occupied extensions crammed full of poor unfortunates who see a space in a garden shed as somewhere to live while they, hopefully, save for something better.

Some might suggest that such buildings help to provide housing but they actually drive up the prices to lift homes even further above the reach of working people.

The impact on neighbours is appalling. Apart from the loss of privacy and outlook there is the noise, the problem of rubbish disposal and the sheer indignity of having a hostel pop up next to your garden fence.

Ealing Council has made an immense effort to solve the problem but it is caught by the absence of Government legislation in this area.

Legally anyone can build in their own garden if they lie through their teeth and promise that they are actually building a gym or a workroom.

Even if the place is plumbed in and furnished the council will have to prove that it is occupied for it to be able to take action.

This just isn't good enough and hard working council officers need support from the government to end this menace to our peace and privacy. I'm meeting the Local Government Minister next week to ask that planning permission be required for "outbuildings". Permitted development is all well and good but not when greedy sharks profit.

Steve Pound is the Labour MP for Ealing North.