Over the last decade there has been a growing consensus that, alongside the renewal of our existing towns and cities, larger scale new communities are an important part of the portfolio of solutions needed to tackle the nation’s housing crisis. New communities can have multiple benefits, creating highly sustainable new environments for people while simultaneously increasing the rate of housing delivery and avoiding urban sprawl. A strategic approach to housing development also offers economies of scale and greater certainty in the development process which can de-risk delivery and create attractive investment opportunities for patient investors.
Above all it is the ability to achieve the interlocking Garden City design and delivery Principles necessary for modern, zero carbon living which is the standout opportunity of large-scale development. Embedding these principles into a long-term and comprehensive master plan which can guide the development over time creates a real opportunity for healthier, more rewarding and affordable ways of living. The Principles’ emphasis on creating stewardship bodies means that the quality of these places can be secured over the long-term. But despite the Principles being referenced in national policy, there are very few places which are successfully applying them holistically in practice, despite the efforts of some ambitious local authorities.
This briefing paper takes stock of the current state of play and delivery barriers, drawing on lessons from the New Communities Group and elsewhere to reveal some of the key challenges surrounding the current debate on large scale development and to indicate some key actions which local and national government could take to unlock this opportunity.