Blog: 18 March 2016How do we create successful new communities?

I attended the launch of the TCPA’s six ‘Practical Guides for Creating Successful New Communities” at the House of Commons on Tuesday. Chaired by Mark Pawsey MP, this turned out to be even more topical and timely than anticipated as it came on the eve of the Budget, amongst rumours that the Chancellor would announce a new programme for the delivery of garden suburbs in his budget the following day. As a result, the TCPA decided to postpone the release of three of the guides until after the budget to take account of any new initiatives or mechanisms announced.

Whilst the Budget Report did indeed include support for the construction of a “new wave” of garden towns, cities and villages, it made commitments to future legislation rather than detailing any specific measures. However, it is clear from the Budget that the Government continues to see the creation of new garden settlements of various scales as an important part of the delivery of new homes. The report makes commitments to “providing capacity support” and “planning incentives” for areas that want to deliver them.

Kate Henderson (TCPA Chief Executive) provided the context to the publication of the guides with the need to build 310,000 homes in England to ‘catch up’ by 2020. Given the argument that the speed and quantity of housing is resulting in poor-quality housing developments, the guides seek to provide a framework and standards for the delivery of high-quality new communities that people are proud to call home. The guides are to assist developers of new large-scale communities that aspire to achieve a high quality of design that reflects garden city principles. Katy Lock introduced the guides, summarised their content and explained that the publication of Guides 1, 2 and 3 has been postponed to take account of the announcements in the Budget Report.

  • Guide 1 – “Locating and Consenting new Garden Cities” provides guidance on an evidence-based approach to identifying locations and achieving planning permission for garden city developments;
  • Guide 2 – “Finance and Delivery” will set out the strategic context for the financing of new garden cities including guidance on land value capture;
  • Guide 3 on “Masterplanning and Design” will set out design standards against which developments can be tested and, where appropriate, benchmarked;
  • Guide 4 on “Energy and Climate Change” sets out a series of recommendations and objectives to ensure that new garden cities are exemplars of zero carbon design;
  • Guide 5 “Homes for all” sets out specific recommendations for the types of homes to be delivered in new garden cities. These include targets for tenure splits and protection of the availability of sub-market housing in perpetuity as well as the creation of Garden City Development Corporations and the set aside of land for self- and custom-build housing; and
  • Guide 6 is entitled “I’d love to live there!” and is focused on the delivery of arts and culture as an integral part of new garden city developments.

Hugh Eliis, Head of Policy at TCPA, said that there are ‘two political routes’ that have a bearing on place-making and design quality. One of which he described as a ‘dash for delivery’, which often results in developments of poor quality and with poor connectivity where speed of delivery is achieved at any cost. As a result, he said there are numerous examples of poor-quality new developments emerging around the country. The other route, Hugh said, was that we ‘embrace the creative enterprise of town planning’ and recognise that the Garden City principles are the foundation of good place-making.

In the context of the Government’s focus on speed and quantity of housing delivery, the TCPA guides will provide a useful framework for good place-making and an opportunity for large-scale developments to benchmark themselves against design criteria that exceeds the guidance in the PPG. Whilst only guidance, they do provide an opportunity for the developers and designers of these new settlements to embrace the “creative enterprise” of real town planning so that they are not only delivered at scale and speed but are of a quality that leaves a lasting legacy for future generations. In this respect, the guides are timely and necessary.

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New Communities, Garden Cities, Garden Suburbs