I have previously written about the housing crisis and the steps taken by the Coalition Government to increase housing supply.
They want better design, localism and planning reform and are driving the concept of ‘garden cities’ for which a prospectus was published by DCLG in April 2014.
We’ve seen the proposals for a 15,000 home development at Ebbsfleet (surely a village rather than a city!) and the Wolfson Economics Prize won by the people at Urbed. Their suggestion of tagging on garden city developments to 40 towns and cities creating some 3.5m new homes clearly has merit.
The traditional concept of garden cities was a planned, landscaped urban area, containing a mix of residences, with employment areas and agriculture surrounded by greenbelts, independent economically, with short commute times and a balance between manufacturing and small businesses. Letchworth, Welwyn and Hampstead are excellent examples. Subsequently, but not so successfully, the concept was extended to the New Towns (mainly based on existing villages and centrally determined) and the proposed Eco-Towns (geared around sustainability, low impact and work/life balance). While the government is using the term ‘garden cities’ once again, their concept does not include the key features of the original developments.
Those that have come forward so far are mainly urban extensions or small towns looking to grow through a new mechanism.
RICS has proposed some fundamental questions that must be applied to each garden city proposal that comes through.
Is it sufficiently master-planned to deliver an integrated community? Will there be a major committed investor and a lead developer at bid stage? Will it show strong viability and housing need with local support? Is the delivery vehicle properly constituted?
RICS sees new garden cities as fitting within this political vision for new settlements, more housing, better infrastructure and balanced regional growth. A coherent spatial plan should include an integrated policy for spatial planning and economic development – lost with the abolition of RDAs and regional government offices – coordinated between the Combined Authority and the LEP across administrative boundaries. Funding needs to be highly focused to promote an advanced service economy inter-linked between the English ‘Core Cities’ with investment in appropriate transportation infrastructures. We also need a delivery vehicle with democratically accountable powers established, with authority for land value capture to fund the infrastructure, with powers to acquire land necessary to support the development.
Kevan Carrick is partner at JK Property Consultants LLP, spokesman for RICS North East and chair of Northern Dispute Resolution