The Garden Cities programme will not help solve the housing crisis unless the number of homes planned for locally is large enough to meet true housing need, according to property adviser Savills.
The Government prospectus for “Locally-led Garden Cities” states that these new settlement should be ‘at or above 15,000’. Analysis by Savills Research shows that at this level it would require one new Garden City a year – the equivalent of the proposed Ebbsfleet development – simply to accommodate the London overspill.
In Garden Cities, Breaking new ground, Savills reveals that the housing shortage is failure on two counts: not enough homes are being built and Local Authorities are failing to plan adequately for housing need in the first place. Local authorities need to cooperate more to meet local housing need particularly around cities where there is acute shortfall.
Even if existing planning targets are achieved, Savills research suggests that southern England faces a shortfall of 160,000 homes over the next five years, of which some 80 per cent in London. Savills argues that Garden City proposals should be in addition to and not a replacement for existing urban extension plans and new homes already allocated in local plans.
“There is no single solution to the housing crisis,” says Susan Emmett, Savills residential research director. “The creation of new Garden Cities is not a panacea but a piece in a much bigger jigsaw.”
How it could work
The Government’s Garden Cities prospectus emphasises that the proposals need to attract private capital and make use of land value uplift to finance necessary infrastructure. It also states that projects must be locally-led, brought forward by local authorities with the support of the community.
Savills proposes that a New Town Development Corporation could be the vehicle that helps delivery a long-term vision. Land needed to accommodate 15,000 homes will cross local authority borders and involve multiple landowners.
“This is a tall order on all counts,” says Emmett. “To achieve the scale necessary in locations where people want to live at a realistic cost to the landowner, developer and end user, requires a solid and accountable framework.
“The suggestion that the required infrastructure can be funded from land value capture is heroic. Contributions from landowners and developers would supplement, rather than replace, central and local Government funding.”
Encouraging land owners to bring forward their land is a key consideration. A balance must be struck between encouraging landowners to bring forward land willingly and achieving the right price to ensure schemes are delivered.
One route proposed in the report, is to hold a national competition for sites to come forward. The competitive element would test the potential for lower land prices so that gains from value uplift could be used to fund infrastructure. A complementary approach would be for the landowner to retain a share in the project, thus benefitting from rising land values over the longer term.
Mapping the potential
The report identifies locations around London, beyond the Green Belt, with the potential to deliver large scale development. These include:
– Northamptonshire and Peterborough: good availability of land around towns such as Northampton, Kettering and Corby; proposed extensions to Rugby and Wellingborough
– ‘The Arc of Prosperity’ around London’s Green Belt from west to north east, where transport infrastructure improvements to road and rail could open up new areas for development, including Milton Keynes, Bedford.
– M11 and East, along the M11 corridor, with potential to take overflow from North London, currently constrained by Green Belt
– M3 and M4 corridors, around towns such as Reading, Bracknell, Basingstoke and Wokingham
– Around Ashford
– Surrey and Sussex – a small strip between the South Downs and High Weald area of outstanding natural beauty could help depressurise Brighton