Guide 6: I’d Love to Live There! Planning for Culture and the Arts

New Garden Cities should be characterised by their social and cultural vibrancy. To create attractive new communities we need to start by addressing a common criticism of large scale development in the UK, particularly the post-war New Towns: namely, that they are often perceived as boring, soulless places in which nothing much happens. This is usually far from the case – but the fact that this criticism is so often voiced echoes a deeper truth. Building houses, schools, roads and hospitals is not enough: we need to create appealing, vibrant places in which people will want to live.  

One hundred years ago the early pioneers of planning knew this. For people such as Ebenezer Howard, inventor of the first Garden City at Letchworth, planning was a highly creative activity that involved artists, writers, designers, architects and all sorts of creative people. It was both a technical and an artistic endeavour. The Garden City movement, inspired by the works of John Ruskin and William Morris, put great emphasis on the role of arts and culture in improving wellbeing within a co-operative approach to society.  

This Practical Guide, published with the support of Arts Council England, David Lock Associates, the Lady Margaret Paterson Osborn Trust, and U and I Group PLC, sets out five overarching principles for the successful delivery of a vibrant social and cultural offer in new Garden Cities: 

  • corporate and political leadership; 
  • a clear and long-term artistic and cultural strategy; 
  • evidenced and effective development plan policy; 
  • a flexible approach to design and delivery, to accommodate changing needs; and 
  • a strong financial model and governance structure that together provide for the long-term stewardship of assets on behalf of the community.