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Nothing gained by overcrowding!

Tuesday 24th April 2012

Leading housing and planning charity, the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA)  has marked the centenary of Raymond Unwin’s,Nothing Gained by Overcrowding! by republishing his pamphlet alongside an exploration of how his ideas can be applied today. The report, being launched in parliament today, illustrates that a holistic approach to designing new communities provides an opportunity to consider how homes and neighbourhoods can be made attractive, socially inclusive places in which to live and work – and, in today’s context, resilient to climate change. Unwin argued for a ‘more harmonious combination of city and country, dwelling house and garden’, the exact opposite of the ‘bolt-on estates’ so often seen today.

Kate Henderson, TCPA Chief Executive said:

“This publication is part of a resurgence of interest in one of the most successful stories in Britain’s social and architectural history, the Garden City movement. Although Unwin was writing one hundred years ago to address questions of housing layout, his ideas are more relevant than ever in our current social and economic conditions. Housing starts are at an all time low and new research has shown that the number of UK households with three or more generations living under the same roof has increased by 7% in the past five years, reaching levels last seen in Victorian times.

“Delivering more and better homes more quickly and more affordably is the defining challenge for our generation.”

The first part of this publication discusses Raymond Unwin’s early influences, including Edward Carpenter, William Morris and John Ruskin, before highlighting some of the beautiful places he drew up, including New Earswick and Hampstead Garden Suburb. Together with Barry Parker, Raymond Unwin designed the masterplan for Letchworth, the world’s first Garden City, created as a solution to the squalor and poverty of urban life in Britain in the late 19th century. Based on the ideas set out by Ebenezer Howard in ‘To-morrow – A Peaceful Path to Real Reform’, published in 1898, Letchworth Garden City inspired town planning across the globe.

 John Lewis, Chief Executive of Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation said:

“As an organisation responsible for maintaining and enhancing the world’s first Garden City, we are proud to sponsor this publication as part of our drive to promote the Garden City model. We believe these principles can help address the challenges this country faces in accommodating growth and we hope this publication can play its part.”

The second part of this publication is a reproduction of ‘Nothing Gained by Overcrowding!’ itself. In the final part, ‘Everything to be gained!’, Patrick Clarke explores how the application of Garden City principles to layout design can help to unlock the delivery of sustainable neighbourhoods in the 21st century.

Dr Patrick Clarke, Technical Director of Strategic Planning and Urban Design at URS, and author of ‘Everything to be gained!’, said: 

 “The underlying argument of Unwin’s work was that with the correct housing layout you could build high quality, beautiful places that were also efficient and cost effective for both the developer and the resident. Re-imagining the Garden City planning principles for today can help us to unlock the delivery of attractive and sustainable neighbourhoods for the 21st century.”

“The UK has a rich heritage of creating world-class residential neighbourhoods and communities. These design principles are highly relevant today when creating and delivering sustainable neighbourhoods in line with 21st century lifestyles. There is indeed everything to be gained by rediscovering our tradition of creating world-class Garden Cities and Suburbs.”

 The TCPA is currently working with communities, local councils, planners, investors and developers to explore the types of partnerships and model approaches for bringing forward new communities which follow the Garden City principles as identified in the National Planning Policy Framework and the Prime Minister’s recent speech on infrastructure. This will include exploring how we re-connect people and planning, giving communities a stronger say and developers greater certainty. A first report from the Garden Cities and Expert Group will be published in the coming months.

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