Pay for the Master Plan, No Treasury Funding, No Land Value Capture – Why Locally Led ‘New Towns’ will Flop

Why should a local authority, county or district be attracted to setting up a New Town Development Corporation under the governments proposed new system – consultation started yesterday, implementing Lord Taylors amendments to the Neighbourhood Planning Act 2017.

The post-war New Towns were delivered by New Town Development Corporations created under the New Towns Acts. We need to learn the lessons from that programme as we support a new generation of garden towns and cities for the 21st century. We consider though that the designation of areas for new towns and the
creation of New Town Development Corporations to drive forward their delivery remains a potentially effective route to securing the creation of high-quality newcommunities.

The earlier generation of New Town Development Corporations were answerable to central government. The powers to create New Town Development Corporations accountable to the Secretary of State remain on the statute book. We consider though that, alongside this, we need to create an oversight mechanism which reflects the locally-led approach to new garden towns and villages in our current programme.

Well what were the lessons?  One key one was that the first generation New Towns were a great success, being commenced before the 1961 Land Compensation Act weakened the potential for land value capture and borrowing at low rates.  Later ones were a financial failure, hampered by high 1970s interest rates.

The New Towns Act is a flexible piece of legislation, which can easily be updated in several ras (not solely concerning governance).  But they were designed to be publicly funded and capture land value. As the AECOM study for the Oxford-MK-Cambridge corridor implementation states the ‘Taylor’ route is more applicable to Garden Village scale communities as Garden Towns and Cities require large scale land acquisition which requires Treasury support.

This route being consulted on would be distinctly unappealing.  The bodies would commission masterplans but not have direct Treasury funding and would not be able to appoint chairs or vice chairs.   It is difficult to see what is in it for local authorities.  Given constrained local authority finances it is likely they would be driven by local landowners, and have rather modest scale plans to ,minimise political controversy and financial liability.  There would be no clear funding led deal with national government to deliver overspill and national priorities.

They would be planning authorities but not delivery authorities -leveraging the power of land ownership. A key a lesson of New Towns.  They are likely to be as successful as the early years of the Ebbsfleet DC or the Turrock of West Northants Dc’s Half Hearted and Weak DCs.


Tibbalds announced as Winners of Oxford-MK-Cambridge Ideas Competition

Congratulations.  Though As I blogged on here it wasnt my favorite.  A key finding of the technical work for the competition (reference the 5Th Studio study) was that village expansion would not meet the needs of the area., you would need 100s of them most of which by definition be outside walking or cycling distance.  Therefore Tibbalds solution though nice urban design does not represent a replicable solution of the strategy for the corridor.  How does this then take us forward in developing a startegy?


Malcolm reading

The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) and Malcolm Reading Consultants (MRC) today announced the ‘VeloCity’ team led by Tibbalds Planning and Urban Design as winners of The Cambridge to Oxford Connection: Ideas Competition.

Their vision was chosen for its low-impact blueprint for delivering much-needed new homes while maintaining a person-centred scale and retaining the existing character of the area.

The all-women ‘VeloCity’ team included Jennifer Ross from Tibbalds, along with Sarah Featherstone (Featherstone Young), Kay Hughes (Khaa), Petra Marko (Marko and Placemakers), Annalie Riches (Mikhail Riches) and Judith Sykes (Expedition Engineering).

The competition sought inspirational visions for the future of development within the arc encompassing Cambridge, Milton Keynes, Northampton and Oxford, one of the UK’s fastest-growing and most productive regions. It informed the NIC’s report Partnering for Prosperity: A new deal for the Cambridge-Milton Keynes-Oxford Arc, published last month.

In the Budget, the Government backed the Commission’s vision to build up to one million new homes across the arc by 2050, and announced plans to complete both a new East-West Rail link and an Oxford-Cambridge Expressway by 2030.

The Commission will showcase the winner’s and finalists’ work along with all earlier submissions at a conference and related public exhibition in early 2018.

Bridget Rosewell, Commissioner and competition jury Chair, said:

“The jury was drawn to VeloCity’s human scale approach to sensitively and incrementally accommodating new homes, alongside the team’s commitment to ensuring new settlements would be communities from the get-go. Creating effective new settlements can be challenging: the team’s flair and imagination in addressing this shows how good design can translate into liveable communities.”Lord Andrew Adonis, National Infrastructure Commission Chair and competition jury member, said:

“The competition focused on essential challenges facing the UK, including how to accelerate the supply of affordable homes without sacrificing the quality of the environment, how to engage and enthuse the public in making the choices ahead, and to showcase how new infrastructure can creatively enable new communities to flourish over the coming decades.

“The visions and imagery generated by the competition are tools that will inspire a new approach to achieving sensitive, infrastructure-enabled development over the next half century.”Jennifer Ross, VeloCity team leader, said:

“We’re absolutely thrilled to win. The six of us met taking part in women’s cycling events and became friends through a shared interest in designing places that put the pedestrian and cyclist first. We wanted to work together and the competition was the perfect opportunity. We spent a lot of time discussing density and place-making and how the implementation of new public transport infrastructure can change the way we plan for and think about building successful communities.”Malcolm Reading, Competition Organiser, said:

“We would like to thank everyone who followed and entered the competition and, in particular, the four finalists who all worked extremely hard. This was the first ideas competition we’ve run and it was hugely exciting to see the contribution made by the design profession to national issues that have profound implications for future generations.”Key features of the winning vision include:

  • generously-sized common land at the heart of each development providing a focus for encouraging communities to interact and shared amenities
  • integrated public transport connections with expanded pedestrian and cycle routes, limiting the need for car use
  • small-scale construction and local utility networks designed to reduce the environmental impact of new housing

Clustered around six villages south-east of a new station on the Oxford to Cambridge rail link, VeloCity’s vision could be replicated across the arc to support a substantial number of new homes.

The Commission launched the two-stage competition in June, and received 58 first-stage submissions from multidisciplinary teams including urban designers; architects; planners; landscape designers and economists.

The jury invited four teams led by Barton Willmore, Fletcher Priest Architects, Mae, and Tibbalds Planning and Urban Design to produce detailed strategies for integrating infrastructure with placemaking in the Cambridge – Milton Keynes – Oxford arc.

The jury interviewed the shortlisted teams and selected the VeloCity team as winners. The four finalists each receive an honorarium of £10,000.

The Cambridge – Milton Keynes – Oxford arc is home to 3.3 million people. The region hosts some of the country’s most successful universities and high-tech manufacturing hubs and has a highly-skilled workforce. Its future success is threatened by significant housing constraints and transport pressures. The Commission’s report identified how well-designed and planned infrastructure could enable authorities across the region to overcome them and ensure the region’s long-term prosperity.

Notes to Editors

National Infrastructure Commission

The National Infrastructure Commission aims to become the UK’s most forward-thinking and influential voice on infrastructure policy and strategy.

Set up in October 2015, the Commission produces a National Infrastructure Assessment once in every Parliament, setting out its assessment of long-term infrastructure needs with recommendations to the government. It also produces in-depth studies into the UK’s most pressing infrastructure challenges and monitors the government’s progress in delivering infrastructure projects and programmes recommended by the NIC.

More information on the Commission’s work is available on its website.

The shortlisted teams

  • Barton Willmore with Momentum
  • Fletcher Priest Architects with Bradley Murphy Design and Peter Brett Associates
  • Mae with Oneworks, Planit, AKT II, Tyrens and Max Fordham
  • Tibbalds Planning and Urban Design with Mikhail Riches, Featherstone Young, Marko and Placemakers, Expedition Engineering & Khaa

The shortlisted entries are available to view in the competition’s online gallery.

The competition jury

The full jury for The Cambridge to Oxford Connection: Ideas Competition comprised:

  • Bridget Rosewell OBE FICE (Jury Chair), Co-Founder, Volterra Partners and Commissioner, National Infrastructure Commission

  • David Lock CBE MRTPI, Strategic Planning Adviser, David Lock Associates

  • Georgia Butina Watson BA MA PhD FRSA, Professor and Research Director of Urban Design, Oxford Brookes University

  • Hilary Chipping, Deputy Chief Executive and Head of Strategy and Operations, South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership

  • Lord Andrew Adonis, Chairman, National Infrastructure Commission

  • Sadie Morgan D.Des (LSBU) FRSA, Founding Director, dRMM Architects and Commissioner, National Infrastructure Commission

  • Tim Broyd FREng CEng FICE FRSA, Professor of Built Environment Foresight and Honorary Professor of Civil Engineering, University College London

  • Tom Holbrook, Director, 5th Studio and Professor of Architecture and Industry Fellow, RMIT University