Telegraph – Now we know why the report has vanished without trace. Why not publish the report without mentioning any areas. That at least might make the prospectus legal as it would be bound to be covered by the european SEA directive as enabling development consent, especially if decribed by the DPM as a ‘big blueprint’. after all there is also the Birmingham overspill and the Sussex Coast overspill, as well as the London Plan overspill, all of which were not known about to the current extent a year ago.
A secret Whitehall report recommending that two new cities are built in southern England to combat the housing shortage is being suppressed by David Cameron, The Telegraph can disclose.
The document was drawn up after the Prime Minister gave a speech supporting the idea nearly two years ago. It was described this week by Nick Clegg, his deputy, as a “prospectus” for future developments.
But it has languished in a Whitehall office since it was written, with officials said to be in a “panic” about whether it should be made public.
On Friday night, Mr Cameron was accused by senior Liberal Democrats of suppressing the report and displaying a “Nimby attitude” through fear of a backlash in Tory heartlands ahead of the general election.
Conservatives are also understood to be concerned that the creation of new cities could lead to Labour voters moving into safe shire constituencies, diluting traditional Tory support.
Garden cities were developed in the early years of the last century in an attempt to combine the best of town and country living and create healthy homes for working people.
Some Tories as well as the Liberal Democrats see them as a solution to the housing shortage. New homes equivalent to 18 Olympic villages are expected to be needed in London alone by 2021.
The document, which is fewer than 50 pages long, is understood to recommend building at least two communities, modelled on those created by the original garden city movement at Letchworth and Welwyn in Hertfordshire. People familiar with its contents say the report makes clear that the Government’s new planning rule book which weakened countryside protections, called the National Planning Policy Framework, “can be used to make it happen”.
The document was completed more than a year ago, and has been “sat on” in the department ever since, according to Liberal Democrat sources.
One said: “It is a blueprint to say that the rules of the NPPF allow us to do this. The best thing to do rather than build all over the green belt is to build a city.”
Mr Clegg raised the pressure on Mr Cameron this week by saying that he wanted to publish the report as soon as possible. He told MPs: “I believe in garden cities and [that is] why, as a Government, we are committed to publishing a prospectus on them, which I very much hope we will do as soon as possible.”
A source close to Mr Clegg said that the row over the document was purely political.
“The issue here is not policy work – it is political disagreement. Unless you get agreement at the top it is not going to happen,” the source said.
“We consistently raise it with the Conservatives on a number of different levels and will continue to do so because we remain supporters of garden cities.”
Last year, Mr Clegg described an “arc” of land between the west of Britain and Cambridge where there “aren’t enough homes to live in”. New settlements could be built in the Buckinghamshire, Warwickshire and Oxfordshire countryside to solve the housing crisis, Mr Clegg said.
Tim Farron, the Lib Dems’ party president, told the Telegraph: “It is time to break the log jam. This report needs to come out now and come out quickly. The Tories are displaying a Nimby attitude towards garden cities.
“We need to grasp this nettle and turn all these warm words about housing into action. For a growing number of people, the aspiration of home ownership, with all the security it brings, has become a distant dream. We need to do much more to help people realise their dreams. Garden cities offer a real chance for us to help tackle this problem and boost the economy.”
Tory sources denied that the prospectus referred to by Mr Clegg was a “big blueprint” for garden cities.
One said: “The Government is looking at a range of options and discussions are continuing. We do not recognise this description of events.”
Mr Cameron’s enthusiasm has waned considerably since his speech in March 2012, when he said the Government “urgently need to find places where we are prepared to allow significant new growth to happen”. The Coalition would begin a consultation by the end of 2012 “on how to apply the principles of garden cities to areas with high potential growth, in places people want to live”, he said.
Last month Miles Gibson, a civil servant who advised Mr Cameron on planning and housing issues, quit to run a competition funded by Lord Wolfson, a Tory donor, to work up proposals for a new garden city. A £250,000 prize would be given to plans for a garden city which was wanted by local people and could pass a “popularity test”. The winning entry would not “cost a single penny” of taxpayers’ money, he said.
Mr Cameron’s apparent cooling on garden cities comes as Nick Boles, the planning minister, was told to “tone down” his aggressive rhetoric on planning.
No 10 has warned Mr Boles to stop making uncompromising speeches about development over fears that his language was alienating voters in rural constituencies.
Labour has also pledged to build new towns if it wins the general election.