Housing Specification Blog

Will Garden Cities solve our housing crisis?

November 27, 2012 Alexandra Blakeman Planning & Legislation

Speaking at the National House Building Council earlier this week, Nick Clegg said it was time to “think big” about Britain’s housing shortage.

He said: “We’re building 100,000 fewer homes than we need each year.” To solve the shortage, the Deputy PM suggested that a new generation of garden cities should be built across the country.

He continued: “Unless we take more radical action we will see more and more small communities wither, our big cities will become ever more congested as we continue to pile on top of each other, and the lack of supply will push prices and rents so high that – unless you or your parents are very rich – living in your dream home is going to be a pipe dream.”

The garden city altered the face of British town planning at the beginning of the 20th century.  Designed to function as self sufficient communities, the garden city was thought to be the most effective way of responding to housing shortage.

The concept is accredited to Ebenezer Howard, who wanted to create communities which offered the benefits of both town and country living. As the original sustainable development, garden cities offered residents a place to live, work, relax and socialise.

Milton Keynes was one of the last and most successful purpose built post-war towns. Whilst the town still provides  and safeguards local jobs, a large portion of residents commute daily to the capital.

There’s no denying the success of the garden city throughout the 20th century. Towns like Letchworth and Welwyn Garden City in Hertfordshire are still thriving. Nick Clegg is suggesting that this form of town planning will prove successful once again.

Does the garden city suit 21st century Britain?

Welwyn Garden City in Hertfordshire was built in 1920. It was declared one of Britain’s first new towns in 1948.

There’s no doubt that we need to build more houses but careful consideration must be given over to the way in which we plan their formation.

The garden city is a pocketed, tidy solution. Brand new communities would be created alongside the convenience of local jobs and amenities.

High unemployment figures might suggest that we should instead work to attract new industry and subsequently build homes nearby. The first garden cities were small in size – if we’re going to honour Mr Clegg and “think big”, each new development that we build must demonstrate an interconnectedness with its neighbour and beyond.

The country needs a fluid sequence of developments which co-depend on each other, rather than a series of disparate, self reliant communities.

Only in this way is it possible to improve the wider picture, and bring Britain’s housing and trade back on its feet.

 

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