Philip Robson BW 2018

The government has identified 14 new Garden Villages across England[1] aimed at providing settlements of between 1,500 and 10,000 homes - potentially delivering more than 48,000 homes.

The government’s has even provided a £6 million fund aimed at unlocking “the full capacity of sites, providing funding for additional resources and expertise to accelerate development and avoid delays”.

In response to the housing crisis, the Garden Villages and Towns policies are a key part of the objective of this government to deliver 300,000 per year by 2020.

The incremental approach to building houses of expanding existing settlements means landowners can see the development coming like a wave, when it hits their site it is flooded with cash through the land value uplift.

It is argued that by enabling local authorities to create new garden villages, then the land value uplift of development being proposed on a site, will be captured.

As Lord Taylor, one of the architects of the policy, set out in the recent Kings Chambers Planning Podcast, the backstop would be the use of compulsory purchase powers. It’s hoped land owners would be willing to sell at more competitive prices because the land on which the garden villages would be built is not the usual edge of settlement land.

The wave is a long way off and therefore the price of the land goes down. The savings in land can be reinvested in infrastructure.

It is also argued that by preserving the land immediately around existing settlements and moving new development to the garden villages, local support for schemes will increase.

It may be wishful thinking to assume the levels of local support will increase for garden villages developments. With most developments there are elements of support and opposition.

A larger risk to the garden village scheme is synchronising different land-owners and different developers to bring forward a coherent scheme in a coordinated fashion. It is unlikely that a single housebuilder will construct the entirety of a garden village or that a single architectural style will be employed.

In order to attract people to garden villages, they will need to be appealing places to live. This requires a consistent design style for the scheme that strikes balance between making a place attractive, and not being restrictive for the developers to find the scheme unviable.

The largest area of concern for the success of the garden villages policy will be delivering the necessary infrastructure. With new towns, a significant percentage of the infrastructure will need to be created from scratch.

This will potentially include schools, roads, public open space, doctors and retail units. It will need significant investment to deliver public services, a considerable amount will be funded through agreements between developers and the local authority.

However, the long term of the services, the schools, teachers and doctors for example, will be supported by the state. Equally, it will need to entice the private sector to provide jobs and shops. With populations as low as 1500, this may prove problematic.

As recognised in the National Planning Policy Framework it may be impossible to assess what infrastructure is needed for a garden village at the application stage, therefore it must be kept under review.

Despite these risks, it is plain that the government will continue to push the policy forward. Given the state of the crisis, all workable solutions should be given a chance. Those working on garden villages need to be mindful of the risks.

Philip Robson is planning barrister at Kings Chamber

[1] Long Marston in Stratford-on-Avon; Oxfordshire Cotswold in West Oxfordshire; Deenethorpe in East Northants; Culm in Mid Devon; Welborne near Fareham in Hampshire; West Carclaze in Cornwall; Dunton Hills near Brentwood, Essex; Spitalgate Heath in South Kesteven, Lincolnshire; Halsnead in Knowsley, Merseyside; Longcross in Runnymede and Surrey Heath; Bailrigg in Lancaster; Infinity Garden Village in South Derbyshire and Derby City area; St Cuthberts near Carlisle City, Cumbria; North Cheshire in Cheshire East.