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Creating Garden Cities and Suburbs Today

Thursday 17th May 2012

The UK needs more, better-quality and greener housing. Many younger people want somewhere affordable to bring up a family, and many of the older generation are looking to comfortably ‘downsize’. People want to live within positive, healthy, vibrant communities with easy access to the natural environment. Alongside providing homes, we also need to create jobs and support growth in sustainable locations and bring about a transition to a green economy.

While there is no ‘silver bullet’ solution to unlocking the potential benefits offered by new Garden Cities and Suburbs today, a Garden Cities and Suburbs Expert Group convened by leading housing and planning charity, the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA), has identified the need for urgent action in five principal areas, to address barriers to the development of a new generation of world-class communities. The ‘Creating Garden Cities and Suburbs Today’ report is being launched in parliament today,[3] at an event kindly hosted by Lord Matthew Taylor of Goss Moor.

 Kate Henderson, TCPA Chief Executive said:

“We are currently presented with a unique opportunity to shape the future of the nation. There is no doubt that we will build new homes, but the challenge is whether we have the determination to leave future generations with a legacy of beauty and durability which truly meets the challenges of the 21st century; ensuring we have the right range of skills and expertise over the long term will be pivotal to realising this ambition. This report sets out a clear call for action to renew our commitment to building outstanding, inclusive and resilient places that justly merit the accolade of ‘Garden Cities’.”

A brief summary of the five principal areas that need to be addressed is set out below:

 1. Vision, leadership and governance

  • The Government must make a sustained commitment to the Garden City principles.
  • Local authority leadership and advocacy of Garden Cities and Suburbs are also vital.
  • Communities must be at the heart of debates about a locality’s future. We need a radical culture change in the governance of new communities, so as to rebuild trust in, and change public perceptions of, new communities and large scale development

2. Unlocking land

  • The Garden City vision cannot be realised without access to the right land in the right place at the right price.
  • The key to unlocking land and aligning the vision for a new garden city or suburb is for local authorities, landowners and developers to enter into a Garden City Joint Venture of Local Development Agreement.

3. Investing in infrastructure – balancing risk and reward

  • De-risking development for investors is the only way to unlock the potential of high-quality new communities. The Government can play a key role in laying the foundation for local action, for example by providing certainty about policy and fiscal measures in order to de-risk investment.
  • Local authorities should consider actions such as prudential borrowing against income from the New Homes Bonus. In return for greater direct financial commitment from the public sector, landowners could be expected to take a longer-term, patient and reasonable approach to assessing the value of their land assets.

4. Planning ahead

  • A compelling vision for sustainability must be integral to new Garden Cities developed today.  Delivery of the Garden City vision requires long term holistic masterplanning which sets out with boldness and flexibility local aspirations for high-quality communities.
  • There must be an effective strategic approach to maximise certainty for business and reap the benefits of economies of scale.

5. Skills, co-ordination and delivery

  • The government should provide a ‘one stop shop’ offering local authorities and developers direct access to statutory and support bodies that will influence the evolution and content of emerging policies.

Robin Hoyles, Group Land and Planning Director at Crest Nicholson, who have supported this publication, said:

The population is growing at its fastest rate for fifty years and yet housebuilding is at its lowest level since the 1920s, creating a very real and urgent demand. With such strong references to large scale development and Garden City principles emerging in the Coalition Government’s policies, we must seize the opportunity to deliver high quality, well-designed places which will stand the test of time. New settlements can – if planned and delivered well – bring huge benefits to the local area, and so it is essential for existing communities to work together with developers, landowners and central and local government not only to share the risk, but ultimately to deliver places which reflect the original Garden City vision, combining the best of town and country living and creating healthy homes for working people in vibrant communities.”

This report is a direct response to Government’s challenge for the sector to come together to show how the Garden City approach can be reinvented for the 21st Century. Drawing upon extensive feedback from two roundtable meetings of the Garden City and Suburbs Expert Group,  it is intended to be a catalyst for action by politicians, community and self-build groups, housing associations and housebuilders, investors and landowners, local authorities, and planners, spurring them to work together towards creating highly sustainable new communities based on Garden City principles – such as stronger community engagement and ownership, long term private sector commitment, and visionary design.

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