With a growing focus on tackling the national shortfall in housing provision by developing new garden towns and villages, Ian recently undertook some research into the concept.
Garden cities were originally a pre and post-war approach to providing housing, generally of a high quality and with an emphasis on openness and public green space. They were intended to tackle the issue of overcrowding in large cities and then post-war to provide replacement homes for those destroyed during the war. Letchworth, Welwyn, Bournville and Milton Keynes are some of the well known garden cities or new towns that were built around these concepts. There are now approximately 500,000 people living in settlements such as these.
Whilst the theory of these urban planning approaches is laudable, it is questionable as to whether the large scale development of new settlements, on green field land, is the best approach to the government's requirement to provide 300,000 new homes every year. To take Milton Keynes as an example, it has been developed over a long period of time, between 1945 and 2018, with the 2018 population reaching 230,000. A garden town doesn't just appear overnight. To provide the large number of homes required each year, a few new garden towns are not going to be sufficient. A new garden town proposed for Ebbsfleet in Kent further emphasises the slow progress of these developments. Of 11,200 homes approved in 2002, only 1500 have been built to date.
Using our mapping data, Ian investigated just where new garden towns could feasibly be developed. Once restricted areas such as greenbelts, areas of outstanding natural beauty, national parks, floodzones and existing settlements are taken out, location options become very limited for individual large scale new settlements.
Taking a long time to construct as well as struggling to gain momentum (few people want to be the first residents in a settlement that's going to be a building site for years to come), are garden towns just a distraction from more efficient ways of providing the huge number of homes required?