The story that the suppressed Garden City Prospectus suggests that Gerrards Cross and Yalding are the two suggested sites for Garden Cities has a nasty smell about it because they are such bad non-obvious sites. Perhaps the leak came on the conservative idea to quash the prospectus before birth.
Last year it was suggested that the Cambridge-Oxford Arc was the focus of work. But these sites are well outside this area and appear not to meet any obvious strategic opportunity in the South East, both sites too small to build a ‘Garden City.’
Gerrards Cross is a really bad site. Already a ‘new settlement’ developed in the late 19th the area around the station is all already developed at low density (conservation area) or common land. The area is just outside the Chileans AONB but within the Chilterns Character Area, its rolling hills and woods to the West would see the Chilterns Society rightly at the barricades. The flatter land to the east is small, only able to take a few hundred houses because of the confluence of the M25 and the M3, as you would need to build at least 400-500m away from both roads because of the noise. You could not build a district centre here and it is not big enough to demand a new secondary school. So what is the advantage of a ‘Garden City’ that would really be nothing more than a poorly located Garden Suburb bound to attract an objection from the highways agency. Indeed in transport terms it is hard to find a less suitable site in highway terms. I know Denham was considered as a potential site by the department about 15 years ago to cope with urbanisation effects from T4. That is a slightly better site, flat and closer to the station. Of course Abercrombie looked at all of these sites and chose Beaconsfield instead.
Yalding? Even less obvious. Yalding village is well known for flooding from the River Medway. I imagine they mean the area around the station a mile to the West. However once you chop away the flood plain this is village material not city material. In 1944 Abercrombie considered a range of potential New Town sites in NW Kent and found a host of landscape and other constraints. He chose Meopham (which was never built) preferring it to other sites including the stations leading to Paddock Wood. Oddly the reasons why Paddock Wood was rejected now look curious (too far from London) and major expansion at Paddock Wood now looks a certainty as the best alternative to major Green Belt loss at Tonbridge Wells.
We know little about the ‘prospectus’ , whether it was written by consultants and/or civil servants. But what little we know makes me very concerned about the capacity left to do good serious strategic planning at central government level. This is a joke. Both labour, lib dems and conservatives now seem to want a bigger role for central government in determining locations for Garden Cities, but dont want planners actually doing the hard work of a proper regional plan to discuss alternative locations for major development or want to do the proper engagement work with all local stakeholders to determine the best solution strategically and locally, or want to do the hard work integrating transport and housing investment decisions so the two are in harmony. If ever we needed a new Abercrombie plan it is now.
You will imagine now there to be FOI requests to obtain the studies. If the defence comes back of briefing ministers in forming policy then Kris Hopkins will have lied to the house of Commons as he denied the report even existed.