‘Garden Cities will Leave Shortfall of 500,000 Homes’ Another Classic Case of Appalling Journalism About Planning

Telegraph @Twinwag

Garden cities, heralded as one of the solutions to the UK’s chronic housing supply shortage, will deliver just a third of the new homes needed by 2020, according to a think tank.

So  – So will every solution and no solution alone will be enough – we need a portfolio of solutions over a period of 30 years, we can make a start in 5 but you will barely be laying the foundations on any solution after 5 years alone.  All you can realistically do in 5 years is provide more finance on shovel ready sites and make more sites shovel ready for the 5 years after that.

The Government pledge to build 250,000 new homes in garden cities by 2020 will leave a shortfall of 500,000 dwellings in which to house the burgeoning population.

What pledge have we missed  it?  No we await the manifestos.

London and the home counties alone would need 67 garden city settlements, comprised of 30,000 people each, to reverse the region’s supply crisis over the next 25 years, warned the Future of Spaces Foundation, a group made up of representatives from the Centre for Cities, Shelter and the National Trust.

Neither Shelter or the National Trust are on the FSF ‘Council of Experts’ according to their website (which might be out of date – if individuals are on on it they will be in an individual capacity not as NT or Shelter i’m sure – I expect these bodies will clarify later today as I dont think they would want bad headlines about them proposing a mass suburban demolition plan promoted by diregiste architects).  Ken Shuttleworth for example thinks existing cities are to be weeded like a garden ruthlessly.

 “Things grow up, you chop them back, new things grow. That’s what keeps it alive. It’s not about sentiment; it’s about what works.”

FSF is simply a Fitzrovia Soiree, an offshoot of Make Architects- as we know from these pages the worst architect in the world.  Though the panel contains some powerful names, Peter Jones the Transport expert for example, it is self selected, contains no town planners, and has a history of getting out of its depth as architect led panels often do.  It’s previous High Streets report for example had no retail industry experts (rather incredibly). It for example suggested that knowledge based industries would do more for the economy of town centres that a housing focus – interesting – but them proposed planning changes that in mot town centres would mean loss to housing of all spaces for knowledge based industries – totally out of their depth. Never trust any group that meets in a Fitzrovia Wine bar and then claims itself to be a ‘Council of Experts’  far too many of those already (Create Streets and the Skyline Campaign spring to mind).

No one would seriously suggest that Garden Cities should meet the supply crisis,  Rather they meet the gap in the supply crisis. 30,000 each is a hypothetical number, and probably too small in many cases, more like a minimum number (20-30,000) to have a secondary school and proper town centre with some viability of a bus network.  None the less the indication of the scale of settlement building we need is helpful.  We wont fix the crisis with half a dozen of 10,000 or 20,000 each.

The study found that if garden cities — first proposed in 1898 as an antidote to an overcrowded and polluted Victorian London — were used as a sole answer to the current housing shortage the settlements would need to cover 675km² of land, an area bigger than Manchester.

Again hypothetical scenario testing, and the Telegraph report does  not suggest the density.  An area bigger than Manchester might be realistic if the sole answer, but so would urban extension or anything else to build several million homes over (we presume the article is unclear)  25 years.  The Telegraph report doesn’t mention the landtake or impact of other options.  One often other options would be to known down for example @Twinwag s house and around 100,000 similar homes and build 20 story tower blocks in their place.  This is why scary alarmism devoid of any coverage of what the alternatives are is such dangerous not simple bad journalism.

There are two garden cities in the pipeline, Ebbsfleet in Kent, where development is under way after a decade of delays, and Oxfordshire’s Bicester, which was announced as the next candidate in December.

Neither are Garden Cities.  They are prexisting programmes (not net additions to dwelling stock so dont meet the shortfall) and neither meet the key component of the Garden Cities Prospectus – capturing land value uplift central to Ebenezor Howards vision.  Neither are part of a social city.  Just because something is spun as x does not mean it is x.  Finding out the difference is what sets good journalism apart from hack reportage.

Sorry but this is an example of the @JonnyMaitland school of bad property and planning journalism.  Do as little work as possible, look for an alarmist headline, and flog the report based on an alarmist pitch to your editor, often on a freelance basis, as serious papers ever more adopt the Daily Mail linkbait business model.  The kind of work that can be done without getting into the field, speaking to people, developing real expertise and running a strong critical narrative over many articles.  If you want to see how to do it look at for example @mirabarhillel or …. well its a shortlist and now even shorter now she has moved to the Indy.

Adam Challis, of the property group, JLL, has also criticised garden cities, calling them “an outdated solution to a modern housing crisis”.

The report comes just a week after David Cameron promised first time buyers 200,000 affordable new homes by 2020 which will be sold at a 20pc discount.

Next Post comments on the FSF report.


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