Every Major Party Manifesto Promotes Garden Cities But Not the Shift in Policy to Deliver Them

This years election is the first since the 1970s to see all three Major Parties promoting Garden Cities as part of the answer to the housing crisis, quite a move. The first ever I think for all three to mention Garden Cities specifically as opposed to just New Towns.  Quite a shift in the political consensus.

The Conservative manifesto says it will support ‘locally led’ Garden Cities.

The Labour Manfesto says it will implement the Lyons Review – without providing a Hyperlink – bad form – which backs ‘– A new generation of Garden Cities and Garden Suburbs’  who will implment them ‘  location specific Garden City Development Corporations’  who will decide where they will go? Correctly learning the lessons of the Ecotowns programme it states that a bidding approach will not deliver them in the right locations.  Rather it proposes ‘A locally led approach’ da dah (page 95) – but with an ‘active role’ for central government is publishing areas of search.  The Lyons proposals for improving sub-regional planning would in effect require areas around major cities to search out areas of overspill.

The Liberals launched today states

The Liberal Democrats plan at least 10 new garden cities to be created in England building 300,000 new homes a year.

The Lib Dems said the new garden cities would be built in areas where there is local support, providing tens of thousands of new homes.

The direct commissioning of homes by government agencies is already being trialed at a former RAF base in Cambridgeshire and is seen as a way of boosting construction when the market alone fails to deliver sufficient numbers.

So all three support ‘locally led/supported’ Garden Cities.

But national policy has supported this anyway since the now Lord Denham was Environment Secretary – when national policy backed ‘locally supported New Settlements’.  So in the last 30 years when providing you ticked all the policy boxes.  In those 30 years we have had

-Sherbourne

-Cambourne

-Ebbsfleet

-Northstowe

-Dickens Heath

-Bicester (more an expanded town)

-Whitehill-Bordon

-Rackheath

-Wixhams

Add up all of the housing built in these locations (Bicetser Post Garden City announcement) over the last 30 years, it probably comes to less than 5,000, almost entirely at Cambourne and Dickens Heath. In other words we have tested and tried and a ‘locally led’ Garden Cities policy and it has delivered less than a 10th of 1% of  household formation over the last 15 years.

Many of these were soft pickings, big brownfield sites airbases and so on, or here the LPAS proposed a counterproposa to avoid an imposed Ecotowns, as at Bicester and Rackheath.  How does anyone expect a continuation of ‘locally led’ to deliver any more than this over the next 15 years?

I am not saying ‘locally led’ Garden Cities are a contradiction, clearly they are desirable and in a few as rare as hens teeth almost locations they are happening.  But not happening enough or anywhere near large enough.

Whatever the fallacies and distortions in Ken Shuttleworth’s misconceived criticisms of Garden Cities he got one thing right.  If you build Garden Cities of 30,000 population it would take 67 of them to meet London’s spill.  That sint going to be locally led and supported.  So where will the spill go?  Sustainable Garden Cities will be much larger and rail connected, how will a new Garden City of 300,000-400,000 be locally led and supported?

Lets get real – if we want to get Garden Cities on the scale we need to be something other an curiosities they need to be nationally backed, have the best locations determined in larger than local plans, be ideally locally supported and be delivered by partnership development corporations.  This requires a spectrum approach across multiple tiers and between the private and public sectors, not one resting at one level only without dedicated delivery mechanisms.  We’ve tried that doesn’t work, doesnt pass the Acid Test of building enough homes.  We now have a consensus we need Garden Cities, so lets move the debate on to how we get them delivered in sufficient scale and to adequate standards.

 

 

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