Tag Archives: garden towns

Spring Statement

Garden communities set to bloom

By Vivienne Shirley, Senior Consultant

In a busy month for the Secretary of State for Communities, James Brokenshire has announced a new garden communities programme to provide tailored advice and potential grant funding to help get garden village and town projects off the ground.

Councils, as well as developers that have express local authority support, have been invited to bid for spots on the programme, which defines garden towns as developments of more than 10,000 homes and garden villages as those between 1,500 and 10,000.

While no new funding has so far been committed, the announcement is designed as a “further step” in the government’s existing garden communities programme. The initiative has already supported 23 garden communities that have the potential to provide more than 200,000 homes by 2050.

Like these 23 communities, successful applicants to the new scheme will receive a “tailored package of government support that includes resource funding, expert delivery advice from Homes England and cross-government brokerage to resolve barriers to delivery”, in an expansion of the current programme.

James Brokenshire said: “This plan is about the government working with councils and developers to get great homes in keeping with beautiful areas in England.

“We want to help local authorities build strong and vibrant communities where people want to live, work, and raise families.”

Reception from the sector

Though the government’s support for garden communities has been broadly welcomed, the response to its new initiative has been tempered with caution. Jason Lowes, partner at planning consultancy Rapleys, has pointed out that garden communities are “by their nature a long-term solution and only part of the picture”.

Whilst there is no doubt that garden communities offer certain advantages over smaller-scale developments – such as the opportunity for strategic infrastructure planning and chance to minimise the impact of new homes on existing communities – smaller developments on green belt or urban sites are also important. As well as being far faster to deliver, these can give people the chance to live close to their family, friends and jobs.

Meanwhile the importance of ensuring garden villages are planned for properly was highlighted by Victoria Hills MRTPI, Chief Executive of the RTPI, who stated: “We have seen too many large developments in the wrong place with no proper strategic planning… Central and local government must put proactive planning at the centre if they are serious about making a success of developing new garden villages and housing at scale.”

Indeed, without proper planning, the government could end up with a host of Ebbsfleet Garden Cities on its hands – the Kent new town beset by delays that has been labelled ‘unsustainable, fractured and incoherent’.

Where’s the money?

No new money has seemingly been set aside for the programme yet, and that will be the real test of the government’s commitment to garden communities.

As Kate Henderson, chief executive of the TCPA, noted: “The autumn budget is an opportunity for the government to be bold and brave in its commitment to unlocking the delivery of new garden communities.”

Following the recent disappointing Social Housing Green Paper, MHCLG will need to prove that it is serious about tackling the housing crisis with funding and decisive action, rather than just warm words. Otherwise, Brokenshire’s latest announcement risks looking like no more than a PR stunt.