And is developing on the Green Belt such a bad concept
The concept of the Garden City has been touted around the industry for decades and given new impetus during this year’s General Election with promises of delivering them in abundance from my name sake, Chancellor George Osborne.
But are Garden Cities really the answer to meeting the housing demand or are they a dated and faded concept? The term was originally developed in Victorian times as an artisan ideal for Londoners to escape the smog and smoke (it was the industrial age) and live out in new, green countryside towns. It was concept designed mainly to help Londoners escape the disease and pollution. It was also a concept heavily dependent on the need for infrastructure, especially rail.
Apart from the social, economic and environmental landscape of London significantly changing since the inception of ‘The Garden City’ what we do still face is a shortage of viable housing options for the Capital and the nation’s growing population, which is estimated to reach 10 million by 2030.
Garden Cities, according to the Chancellor, aim to deliver c15,000 new homes. However, across the UK, we need 250,000 new homes each year. This means you would need 16 Garden Cities each year to meet demand.
So where might urban growth occur? There are great swathes of low quality agricultural land that’s well-connected to London.
o South – Ashford, Ebbsfleet, Dartford
o East – Chelmsford to Colchester
o West – Out to Reading (Crossrail has thrown a spotlight on this area)
o North – up to Milton Keys
So what’s the catch? Why aren’t the wheels in motion already? NIMBYism. That’s why! If homeowners understood, or more to the point, if voters understood that the UK has the least amount of developed land in the EU and only seven to eight per cent is ‘Urbanised’ meaning only three to four percent of land is actually built on then perhaps they’d change their minds. London’s Green Belt totals 516,000 hectares. With the right provision of suitable housing in strategically located ‘urban corridors’ we could deliver a significant supply of sustainable new homes, new communities, to meet the UK’s housing demand.