Prime minister says planning reform will allow new communities but tighten green belt controls

The government is to launch a consultation on a new wave of communities based on the principles behind the Garden City movement, prime minister David Cameron said today.

Cameron said the consultation, will look at “how to apply the principles of garden cities to areas with high potential growth.”

In a major speech on infrastructure to the Institution of Civil Engineers today, Cameron hinted that further safeguards to protect green belt land would be introduced alongside pro-development reforms to the planning system.

Chancellor George Osborne is expected to publish the National Planning Policy Framework, which will introduce a presumption in favour of sustainable development into the planning system, alongside the Budget on Wednesday.

Cameron’s comments on Garden Cities came after the communities department said in November that it would issue a consultation on new “large scale developments”, but made no reference to it applying the principles of the Garden City movement.

Cameron said the growth of towns and cities has been held back by the planning system, which had encouraged development of the wrong sort in the wrong places.

He said: “We need homes for people who need them, in the places they want them, while protecting our fine landscapes and preserving the greenbelt.

“While everyone celebrates the success of the greenbelt, far fewer people celebrate the contribution that the new towns made to maintaining it intact. Certainly, mistakes were made in the new towns, with the state deciding arrogantly what people ought to like.

“But in the last century, private and social enterprise also created places like Hampstead Garden Suburb, Letchworth and Welwyn Garden City – not perfect, but popular – green, planned, secure, with gardens, places to play and characterful houses; not just car-dominated concrete grids.”

He added that he wasn’t advocating “sprawl” over the countryside. “We absolutely must protect our greenbelts and National Parks. But we also urgently need to find places where we are prepared to allow significant new growth to happen,” he said.

Cameron’s pledge was welcomed by the Town and Country Planning Association, which said a new generation of locally-led, comprehensively planned garden communities was overdue.

Kate Henderson, TCPA chief executive said: “Many of the Garden City ideals remain of critical relevance today, providing a foundation and an economy of scale for high quality, attractive and inclusive places, creating new jobs and truly sustainable lifestyles.”

“The Garden Cities were fired by a sense of idealism and enthusiasm. Today, we can go further, placing local people at the heart of the process from the outset.”