In a speech yesterday (16 November 2017) the Secretary of State, Sajid Javid MP, made clear the government’s renewed interest in a new generation of garden cities as a key part of the solution to the housing crisis.

The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) has today put its weight behind a new generation of ‘new towns’ in the Cambridge-Milton Keynes-Oxford Arc. At last the government seems to be recognising the need for a long-term and strategic approach. However, what is much less clear is whether the rhetoric around garden towns and cities is real or simply the crude rebranding of poor-quality and unaffordable housing estates. If the government is serious about fixing our “broken” housing market it will have to use next week’s Budget to make a real commitment to the garden city principles and to a radically different model of housing delivery. This can’t be done by tinkering with the planning system or without significant investment in genuinely affordable housing. 

We are calling on Chancellor to be brave and bold in the Budget, setting out a commitment to genuine garden cities that:

  • have local support;
  • provide affordable homes for all;
  • are in sustainable locations, well served with public transport;
  • ensure the highest-quality design standards on everything from accessibility to climate change;
  • provide for work and a vibrant social and cultural life close to people’s homes; and
  • provide for the sharing of development values for the long-term stewardship of community facilities and green spaces.

The TCPA has long advocated the standards necessary to build genuine garden cities and is publishing two new guides today which set out the criteria for how new communities should be located and how they can be financed. A key lesson from the past is that success depends on national and local government doing its homework on the right locations. Garden cities can’t be produced like rabbit out of a hat; they require quality and an expert process of site selection, with space for real community engagement about the benefits of scale growth.

The publication of the NIC’s final report today is invaluable in setting the context for new garden cities and new towns, but it doesn’t tell us where these new places should be built; neither does it think about England as whole (because that wasn’t part of its remit). The future of Newcastle and Burnley matters just as much as the future of Oxford and Cambridge.

So, while we welcome the government’s commitment to scale growth, this must be in the context of a national conversation about the need to rebalance the economy. When the Chancellor stands up on Wednesday, it’s vital he backs the ambition for new communities with the investment and policy necessary to build the places the nation deserves. The Budget will tell us whether the government’s housing policy is only about numbers or instead about the making of real communities where people can thrive.

To downlaod the TCPA's new guide on financing and delivering new communities, click here.

To download the TCPA's new guide on locating and consenting new communities, click here.