This week the housing minister, Gavin Barwell, announced that more than 48,000 homes are to be built in 14 new garden villages and three garden towns. The announcement received a mixed reception.
More details are expected in the housing white paper out this month. So are these fresh shoots cause for excitement or simply old branches repackaged?
What else was announced?
On Monday the government announced: “The first garden villages, which have the potential to deliver more than 48,000 homes across England, have been given government backing.”
Fourteen locations have been earmarked for developments of between 1,500 and 10,000 homes, each of which will have access to a share of £6 million in funding over the next two financial years. Plans for three new garden cities in Aylesbury, Taunton, and Harlow and Gilston, along with £1.4 million of funding to support their development, was also announced.
The government also said we can expect more garden villages to be announced this year, with an additional £1 million put aside to help to fund proposals. It expects building to start on 25,000 of the homes by 2020.
Is this new news?
It is an extension of a policy started by the coalition government in March 2014 when the chancellor, George Osborne, announced that the “first garden city for almost 100 years” would be built in Ebbsfleet, Kent. In September last year a masterplan for the city was unveiled with seven parks, a commercial centre and improved public transport — more than 400 out of the promised 15,000 homes have been built. A second garden city was announced in December 2014 in Bicester, Oxfordshire, with 13,000 new homes. This was followed in 2015 by the announcement of garden towns in Didcot, Oxfordshire, and Basingstoke in Hampshire, and new garden communities in Northamptonshire and Essex.
In March 2016 the government launched a bidding process to build a series of garden villages of up to 10,000 homes, as well as larger towns and cities, saying it planned to support 12 new garden villages. The bidding process finished in July. Many of the places that bid are in areas already earmarked for development. David Bainbridge, a partner at the estate agency Bidwells, says: ‘The areas for villages and towns are not necessarily new, but the funding of £6 million is, and although [it’s] relatively little, given the scale of the problem, the funding is welcome.” The developments can also draw on the £2.3 billion housing infrastructure fund announced in the autumn statement.
Why the term “garden”?
Sir Ebenezer Howard launched the garden city movement in 1898. It was a form of urban planning in which cities were designed as self-contained communities with areas for homes, industry and agriculture, interspersed with parks and surrounded by green belt. In 1904 the first garden city was built in Letchworth, followed in 1919 by Welwyn Garden City, both in Hertfordshire. Many architects have criticised the latest “garden” moniker as a marketing gimmick by the government.
However, the Department for Communities and Local Government states: “[These are] new communities that work as self-sustaining places, not dormitory suburbs. They should have high quality and good design hardwired in from the outset.”
Will it solve the housing crisis?
Not in isolation. Susan Emmett, the director of residential research at Savills, says: “We need to be building 300,000 homes a year to deal with the backlog of pent-up demand. Though new settlements are essential to provide the homes we need for future generations, they will take years to deliver. We need long-term and short-term solutions to the housing crisis.”
Fionnuala Earley, the residential research director at Hamptons International, says: “[The sites] should help to provide much-needed homes with the necessary infrastructure, while allaying some of the fears of locals worried about urban sprawl. [Delivering] 50,000 homes is welcome, but hardly enough to address the chronic under-supply in England.”
How will this affect existing homes?
Previous garden cities have not progressed without problems: Ebbsfleet has been slow to get going and there have been protests from locals in Bicester concerned about local wildlife and the lack of a coherent masterplan for incorporating new-builds into the existing town.
The new projects, though, are almost all standalone and can be designed from scratch as independent places. However, it takes time to set up the corporations needed to oversee the development.
James Way, the head of Knight Frank’s Stratford-upon-Avon office, says: “The brownfield land acquired for the Long Marston garden village — an old airfield — has been blighted for quite a long time by events held there, so the new homes should greatly improve the landscape and sense of community.”
Mark Charter, the head of residential sales at Carter Jonas in Oxford, says: “The arrival of new housing will inevitably boost transaction volumes in and around Eynsham, but is unlikely to boost new-build house prices; by contrast, the period properties and stone cottages for which the Cotswolds is known are likely to become more sought after, ultimately boosting their values,” he says.
THE NEW GARDEN VILLAGES
● Long Marston, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire
● West Oxfordshire, Cotswolds
● Deenethorpe, east Northamptonshire
● Culm, Devon
● Welborne, near Fareham, Hampshire
● West Carclaze, Cornwall
● Dunton Hills, near Brentwood, Essex
● Spitalgate Heath in South Kesteven, Lincolnshire
● Halsnead in Knowsley, Merseyside
● Longcross in Runnymede, Surrey and Surrey Heath
● Bailrigg in Lancaster, Lancashire
● Infinity Garden Village, south Derbyshire
● St Cuthberts, near Carlisle, Cumbria
● North Cheshire, near Handforth, Cheshire