It is hopefully a sign of things to come that DCLG’s first announcement of 2017 concerned housing delivery. TCPA welcomes the commitment to housing growth highlighted by the announcement of the latest authorities to receive support for ‘Garden Towns’ and new ‘Garden Villages’. We have been working with several of these authorities for some time through the New Communities Group, which itself comprises 16 ambitious local authorities and development corporations planning positively for growth.

While this latest addition to the terminology of the ‘garden communities palette of options’ seems to have caused a bit of confusion - see TCPA's forthcoming book for discussion on the use of terminology -it indicates government's recognition of the role of a portfolio of solutions and scales of growth. 

Housing & Planning Minister Gavin Barwell MP himself highlighted on Radio 4’s The World at One on 2nd January that new ‘Garden Villages’ must not be dormitory suburbs – but provide the infrastructure, jobs and facilities to cater for new and existing residents. The original Garden Villages at places like Bournville and Saltaire were based around a core industry and therefore provided people with jobs as well as affordable homes and generous community facilities -looked after by a long-term stewardship body – and aimed at enabling healthy lifestyles. The prospectus invited ambitious proposals that do not ‘use ‘garden’ as a convenient label’ but ‘embed key garden city principles to develop communities that stand out from the ordinary.  Without standards or policy requirements in place it will be up to those delivering these developments to commit to these principles in practice and ensure that they meet the commitment to quality, affordability and sustainability that their name implies.  We look forward to working with these and other ambitious councils going forward to achieve their objectives.

The original Garden Villages at places like Bournville and Saltaire were based around a core industry and therefore provided people with jobs as well as affordable homes and generous community facilities -looked after by a long-term stewardship body – and aimed at enabling healthy lifestyles.

While a small amount of capacity funding and access to other funds should help to get things moving in selected areas, even combined with other measures (some of which, like Starter Homes, may be counterproductive), current initiatives do not provide the comprehensive approach needed to ensure that councils have the means to demand or deliver higher quality or genuinely affordable development.  

The opportunity - Modernising the New Towns Act through the Housing White Paper

The forthcoming Housing White Paper provides a once in a generation opportunity for government to address this and put in place the necessary measures to address the nation’s acute housing shortage by helping local authorities deliver on their ambitions and enable the creation of highly sustainable new places (see Housing White Paper: Time to update the New Towns Act - Nov 2016). To make a real difference we need a portfolio of solutions, including new Garden Cities – combining the principles of the Garden City movement, updated for the C21st, with the delivery mechanisms of the post-war New Towns movement, learning the lessons of what has worked and what has not.

The forthcoming Housing White Paper provides a once in a generation opportunity for government to put in place the necessary measures to address the nation’s acute housing shortage by helping local authorities deliver on their ambitions and enable the creation of highly sustainable new places.

This requires only minimal amendments to the New Towns Act, but would put in place the tools for councils to capture, share and reinvest land values, providing the means to create and maintain great places and a requirement to commitment to truly sustainable, high quality, affordable and climate resilient communities. TCPA’s Joint Statement on Modernising the New Towns Act, set out at the link below, calls for the Housing White Paper to commit to providing councils with the tools they need to deliver real places, not just housing units. If the White Paper sets ambitious housing delivery targets it must also provide councils with the means to deliver, and a Modernised New Towns Act is an essential part of the toolkit.  

Join the campaign!

The TCPA and Local Government Association are seeking support from other organisations who are keen to see government commit to amending the New Towns Act to help local authorities drive high quality placemaking. We are delighted that Bedford Borough Council, Braintree District Council, Colchester Borough Council, Milton Keynes Council, North Dorset District Council, North Hertfordshire District Council and Tendring District Council, along with Lord Matthew Taylor of Goss Moor, have confirmed their support.

We hope you will join the campaign by signing on to the joint statement. Please contact Hugh Ellis at Hugh.Ellis@tcpa.org.uk or Katy Lock at Katy.Lock@tcpa.org.uk for details.

The TCPA is also continuing to explore the detail and is holding a New Towns Act Local Designation Forum on Thursday 19th January at TCPA to explore the practical realities of modernising the Act. Please contact Katy Lock at the address above for further details.  

Read the Statement here

Sign-on so far includes:

Photograph of Campbell Park, Milton Keynes, courtesy of Caroline Brown.