‘Locally Led’ Garden Cities Prospectus Published – Out goes the ‘Social City’


Seems like a clumsy number 10 red pen all over it – lots of examples:

Unlike the previous Government’s Eco-Towns programme, this is a local solution, giving communities the power to choose sites, plans and designs for Garden Cities, not (sic) rather than Whitehall imposing what it thinks best for local people.

A line also clumsily edited out of the appendix at last minute by the PM/DPM – and not proof read, and it shows.

So what do they mean by ‘Garden City’  To immunise themselves on this they quote the TCPA principles -without any editing – including the principles of land value capture and long term community stewardship of assets.  The only change is to mark down land value capture from point 1 to point 2, and deletion of the concept of social city, well Ebenezer was a libertarian socialist (great Friend of Anarchists Geddes and Kropotkin) and this hinted way to much of regional planning – afterall it was the origin of regional planning, the condemns liking.  On that small point Ol Uncle Ebenezer  would have curled slightly his mustache – but then he was always a supreme pragmatist.

Key Garden City principles include:

  • strong vision, leadership and community engagement (moved to top);

  • land value capture for the benefit of the community (moved from top);

  • community ownership of land and long-term stewardship of assets;

  • mixed-tenure homes and housing types that are affordable for ordinary people;

  • a strong local jobs offer in the Garden City itself, with a variety of employment opportunities within easy commuting distance of homes;

  • Beautifully and imaginatively designed homes with gardens, combining the very best of town and country living to create healthy homes in vibrant communities;

  • generous green space linked to the wider natural environment, including a surrounding belt of countryside to prevent sprawl, well connected and biodiversity rich public parks, and  a mix of public and private networks of well managed, high-quality gardens, tree-lined streets and open spaces;

  • opportunities for residents to grow their own food, including generous allotments;

  • strong local cultural, recreational and shopping facilities in walkable neighbourhoods; and

  • integrated and accessible transport systems – with a series of settlements linked by rapid transport providing a full range of employment opportunities (as set out in Howard’s vision of the ‘Social City’).

Very short – nothing at all about setting down a positive enabling government (including legislative) framework.

Nothing at all about testing and comparing site options as part of a ‘larger than local’ approach – including of course alternatives of releasing existing Green Belt.  The assumption presumably is that the LPAs will do this – but how can they express an interest and how can a government back these unless they are already part of a local Plan process.  Hence this prospectus will simply back those already in the system and wont bring forward any new Garden Cities, least of all where they are most needed and most suited.

The government, as at Ebbsfleet, is only offering to overcome barriers to delivery, not any other barriers, least of all those created by nimbys.

I note that the expressions of interest checklist says nothings about stating methods for capturing land value uplift, and failing to learn the key Ecotowns lesson whether or not alternatives have been considered. Nothing either about meeting wider government growth or infrastructure objectives or aligning with wider infrastructure planning (e.g. East West rail etc.).

There is no requirement that the expressions of interest have to be put forward expressions of interest, the wording is very careful on this.  Localities can only choose whether to support the scheme and design, not to lead on the scheme or design.  ‘Locally led’ is the wrong term here  they are landowner led and locally vetoed.

Well its a start.  What if the privatye sector put forward a proposal and the government likes it – will that be a material planning consideration on appeal?  Certainly localities should be given the opportunity to veto as suggested but what if there then is an appeal?  And if government backing is material then surely the submissions, like Ecotowns, would require an SEA?  If governbment backing is in no way shape or form a material considerartion, providing a framework for development consents, then what is the point of the prospectus, other than pointing out what the large scale sites programme already does.

A start of a long messy journey from a prime minister who has given a speech praising regional planning for Garden Cities but doesn’t like Labour doing it.


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