Guardian Letter on the Boles Speech

About from tow paras, third para, which is simply unrealistic and will not meet nearly enough housing need, the last para. which does not account for the reaction against bylawe terraces which led to the Garden Cities movement, I think this is spot on.  David were these Victorian typologies on greenfield land or not?


Nick Boles talks about everybody’s “right to a home with a little bit of ground around it”, and refers blithely to the fact that only (sic) 10% of our land is “developed”. Perhaps someone should remind him that England has the highest population density in Europe. There are four of us for every hectare of land, a hectare being about the size of a rugby pitch.

It simply isn’t an option to continue to replicate the 20th-century pattern of low-density housing, typically 25 dwellings per hectare, that produced our sprawling suburbs. Lower-density housing requires more infrastructure, is wasteful of energy, generates more traffic, rarely achieves the critical mass to support basic services, and fails to encourage social cohesion. Furthermore, it threatens our vulnerable countryside.

We have a highly urbanised population and we need to concentrate on creating compact and civilised urban environments within existing conurbations rather than encroaching on green fields.

During the 19th century our forefathers led the world in developing compact and efficient urban housing typologies. They created patterns of streets and squares punctuated with communal gardens, allotments and parks using continuous rows of narrow-fronted houses with small courtyard gardens and achieved densities at least two to three times higher than those of later suburban developments. Perhaps Mr Boles could learn from their example?
David Robson
Hove, East Sussex


Will Clegg Screw Up Garden Cities Like Everything Else He Touches?

So Nick Clegg launches (or rather pre-launches sinks) the Garden City prospectus, rather than anyone from DCLG.  In part this represents the interest and control the political centre now has in the programme, but it is worrying as it is well known in Whitehall that Clegg has the Anti-midas touch.  Everything he touches turns to ###t.  Clearly neither Osborne nor Cameron wanted to be associated with any political that might get the placard wavers in the shires out even given there confrontational stance on greenfield development – always conducted note through surrogates not themselves.

His speech did show that there was vigorous Whitehall inflighting over the contents of the Manifesto   If one were to guess this would be between those pushing for a Policy Exchange style planning free zone for competition winners with everything driven by the private sector, between those wishing them to be treated like any other planning application ( a mistake it doesn’t work for schemes of a town scale) and those wanting some kind of development corporation approach. This debate is rather spurious as the very existence of a planning system prevents the capture of land at its original value and its development by a none-state trust- the true Garden City model.  This requires some degree of state intervention to create the space for voluntarism and a third sector solution.

Earlier this year I posted on what kind of legal and financial model might be used to develop a new wave of Garden Cities (here and here).  Sadly the recent TCPA/Land Securities report went little further than to propose a (necessary) ‘partnership’ model. I described how the New Towns Act – with some minor tweaks, and a major statutory exemption to the Leasehold Compensation Act could create a space for New Garden City Corporations which could capture uplifts in land value for infrastructure and social facilities – and run by a third sector trust rather than the State –  the true Garden City solution.  Anything less than this will not be a Garden City but a fake housebuilder branding, like the endless schemes branded villages with no sight of greenery.

On this Mike Ash former DCLG chief planner is with me.  At the TCPA seminar last week.

Mike Ash, now vice-president of the TCPA—, said he thought the government was not going far enough to meet the housing need and called for new garden cities to be built under the New Towns Act.

He said: “We’ve had a variety of ministers stand up and say: ‘We must get local authorities to deliver more homes’ and we are where we are now. I personally don’t think that’s ever going to work.”

Currently the NPPF system will either a) force local planning authorities to release large amounts of Green Belt Land to meet housing need or b) persuade under the Duty TC other LPAs to take large scale allocations for sub-regional solutions.

If a large number of authorities did club together they could force recalcitrant authorities to accept these under the DTC and the NPPF, but first they would have to commission regional planning studies of their own to demonstrate both the evidence base and SEA compliance of the Garden City option.  But this will take years and without central funding and support, or even a hint in a ministerial speech (‘if you want to protect the Green Belt this is what you should do…) it aint going to happen, so we are likely to see large pressure for Green Belt loss and few Garden Cities.  Cleggs magic touch again.

At the same seminar Shona Dunn said

there were “some very positive signs” that local authorities were beginning to meet housing needs in their areas….neighbourhood planning was helping communities to accept the need for development and addressing their fear of change.

This is delusional, there is no evidence from any Neighbourhood plan anywhere of them increasing housing levels above what was already previously planned.  It is the stick that is working and not the carrot, and all LPAS bring forward local plans are doing is including RSS figures as they are still required to do under the duty of general conformity.  The evidence is now very clear in a way it was not at the time of the election, regional plans have been a great success in increasing housing allocations, a fact too uncomfortable for the government to allow reality to intrude.