Ebenezer Howard Fills in a Form to Build 12 Garden Comunities in Cambridgeshire and Bedfordshire

Yes this form is real, he sent me a copy (amazed he had to fill one in ) I put his filled in version on dropbox here . 

The original form is here seemingly bearing little reference to the contents of the prospectus.

Here are some edited highlights.

Dear Mr Kit Malthouse Sir,
Ebenezer Howard and members of the International Garden Cities and Town
Planning Association (1922):

We have come directly from the meeting of the International Garden Cities and Town
Planning Association Congress October 1922 in Paris using My friend Mr HG Wells’s
Time Machine. Mr Wells told me a ‘prospectus’ had been laid for a new Garden Communities.

Seeing how serious the evils of overcrowded housing had become in the
2010s we had to respond and rethink and adapt our Garden City Principles to your
current circumstances, as well as choosing one pioneering site which might be suitable
for your current needs.

We have brought along our friends the Quaker Chocolate Barons, Mr Rowntree and
Mr Cadbury, who have left you some original recipe fruit pastels and dairy milk,
concerned at the deterioration in quality and taste of these products in your time, as
well as Henrietta Octavia Barnett (who now discovers she was made a Dame in 1925)
founder of Hampstead Garden Suburb and some of our most prominent town planners
and architects including Sir Raymond Unwin (who equally finds to his delight
that he was knighted in 1932) who I believe was first chief planner at your predecessor
ministry; and who is most pleased to see from the current occupant of this post
that fashions in hair and clothing have not changed in almost a century….

Our original schemes were a reaction to the Victorian industrial city – the ‘Coke Town’ from Charles Dickens hardtimes. Cities have changed but they are easier to breath in but still increasingly overcrowded rookeries with ‘beds in sheds’ and ‘couch surfing’ after we note an entire generation where little housing affordable to the working classes was built; such as Mr Lever, Cabdbury and Rowntree built in such large numbers. They are also declining in their healthiness, with increasing incidence of tuberculosis, once considered banished. We have gone from coke town to choke town, with those forced to live near congested area living notably shorter lives from pollution from motor carriages. Sadly the great public health improving municipalism we saw in our lifetimes from leaders such as Joseph Chamberlain seems lacking as your municipal leaders have so much fewer powers and assets and are focused overwhelmingly on social care for your aging population. My book’s central idea was focused on how to afford care for the elderly so we have updated it to your circumstances.

Despite almost a century rapid urbanisation and the major changes it causes to agriculture and the countryside have not lessened in pace, except oddly in Great Britain, they have increased. The problems of rapid urbanisation area as in our times is the problem of your time. A problem you now face acutely with problems of carbon emissions, global warming, soil depletion and loss of biodiversity. Yet rapid urbanisation has also propelled millions out of poverty with considerable benefits to economic development and innovation, as Professor Geddes as long since noted.
The challenge still is to blend the best of town and country – as in my book, but considered more broadly and not just aesthetically.

We must blend the advantages of the Town – the Urban, its infrastructure, the bustle, architecture, civility, accessibility, services, innovation and culture,

With the advantages of Country, the Green, the peaceful, the picturesque landscape, the Natural and the fecundity of Nature to feed us and provide the means to support life itself.

Yet we find debates over Town and Country Planning in your century as pitched battles over the worst of both each presented as caricatures….

I travelled up and down the Great Northern Railway and Royston and Hitchin Railway company lines many times searching for good sites for Garden Cities, and note too the proposal to reopen the Varsity line as East-West Rail (though we cannot figure out why they were closed and why Oxford and Cambridge could ever have been considered rural backwaters) . These three railway lines, and the great Roman Roads to the North the A1 and the Great North Road all converge here and there are also two very large & now surplus ‘brownfield’ military camps at RAF Howden (only 3 miles North of Letchworth) and RAF Bassingbourn. This diamond area of survey crosses three
counties, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire, and two of your so called growth corridors, The Innovation Corridor (London-Stansted-Cambridge) and the Oxford-Cambridge Arc. This intersection should not be a disadvantage, as Mr Unwin always say it is at intersections your get the chance to create the picturesque. A proper ‘border blind’ (sub) regional plan is needed.

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2 thoughts on “Ebenezer Howard Fills in a Form to Build 12 Garden Comunities in Cambridgeshire and Bedfordshire

  1. Judging by the numerous typing errors in the last paragraph of the full submission I wonder whether one might detect your input to this Mr Lainton?

    “Considerable technical and design based work is needed to work up these proposals, probably at least £20 million of billable concept work This is *likley* to be beyond the means of the concerned local authorities. Without this nothing happens. The local authorities could argue about shifting housing cross borders for 20 *yers*, as they have done around Oxford. The Government and Homes England needs to take the lead in *dersising* the *techical* issues about where the 1.5 million *hous-es* in the arc could go and *onlty* when options and impacts are clear will the political process for agreement become clearer.”

  2. Well I have to say young man, something worth considering (or remembering). It would seem some ideas and acts of ‘progress’ – namely the closing of the train line and degrading of Oxford & Cambridge – have not stood the test of time.

    But Garden Villages (principles thereof) have. That lovely young man Will Cousins (at David Lock) swears by them, always has.

    But sadly for most concerned, the masses have been given overwhelming control, especially reinforced now in the form of Localism, which has been interpreted and used to stop new housing in its tracks (or at least as many as they can wave a NO placard at…). So with the headless home owners in charge and all signed up, comforted and endorsed by the Comfortable Pensioners Resenting Economic club ……. those in need of housing are silenced, and the rather cute Mr Malthouse remains on the backfoot. But there again, him and his jolly sensible boss Mr B may have more spine to stand up to the old school pressure for promotion the other chap fell for…..but I’m guessing they can manage just fine without that sort of help.

    Meanwhile, Garden Villages are really quite a good idea, keep at it.

    Pammy. X

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