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Bidding opens for garden community development support

Words: Laura Edgar
Garden communities / Shutterstock_204267754

Housing and communities secretary James Brokenshire has announced a new programme of garden communities, inviting garden town and village developers to bid for additional government support for projects.

He said the programme aims to enable more high-quality homes to be built and green spaces created. It expands on government plans for more locally led developments.

The government sees new settlements as part of the solution to the housing crisis and its ambitious plans to deliver 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s.

The programme allows councils across England and private developers that have secured support from local authorities to apply for a place on the programme.

The winners will receive tailored advice and, potentially, grant funding for help with staffing or environmental assessments, which form part of the planning process for new garden towns.

Brokenshire said: “This plan is about the government working with councils and developers to get great homes in keeping with beautiful areas in England.

“We want to help local authorities build strong and vibrant communities where people want to live, work, and raise families.

“Our garden communities programme already has the potential to provide over 200,000 new homes by 2050, and we want to go further.”

The government will be looking for strong community involvement and engagement to be at the heart of proposals. They should reflect local character and include “beautiful” green spaces near homes.

The prospectus states that the government will prioritise proposals for new garden towns comprising more than 10,000 homes, but will consider proposals for garden villages comprising between 1,500 and 10,000 homes that are “particularly strong in other aspects”.

Bidders have until 9 November to apply for support. Those that are successful will be announced in the New Year.

The garden communities prospectus can be found on the UK Government website.


Victoria Hills MRTPI, chief executive at the RTPI, told The Planner that the garden towns programme is “critical” to solving the housing crisis and creating quality, healthy living places that so many desire and need.

RTPI research has found that piecemeal incremental developments alone will not meet the demand for new quality homes, said Hills.

“Delivering large-scale development requires strategic leadership and approaches that are likely to be unfamiliar to many local authorities. It is vital that local planning teams are properly resourced to deliver at a more strategic level.

“We have seen too many large developments in the wrong place with no proper strategic planning and consideration for quality design, jobs, infrastructure and amenities. Central and local government must put proactive planning at the centre if they are serious about making a success of developing new garden villages and housing at scale.”

Kate Henderson, chief executive at the Town and County Planning Association (TCPA), said: “The prospectus presents an exciting opportunity for councils to think strategically about the most sustainable long-term growth options for their local areas and to come forward with proposals for high-quality new garden communities.

“We particularly welcome the inclusion of garden city principles in the prospectus, and we urge local authorities pursuing this approach to adopt the principles as a framework,  enabling the creation of genuinely affordable, inclusive, high-quality and climate-resilient new communities with the highest environmental standards.”

Henderson added that the TCPA hopes that the government will invest properly in the programme over the long term, noting that its Autumn Budget would be an opportunity for the government to be “bold and brave in its commitment to unlocking the delivery of new garden communities”.

Matt Thomson, head of planning at the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: “New emphasis on brownfield and transformational regeneration in the government’s latest garden communities prospectus is welcome, but would be better placed if support for such schemes were prioritised.

‘As a whole, though, the prospectus is another example of the ‘garden’ soubriquet being applied to even more random development proposals, which all seem to lead to low-density, car-dependent, residential-led sprawl.

“Even the revised NPPF recognises the importance of using what limited land we have more efficiently. We need to ask whether ‘homes with gardens’ are compatible with the achievement of sustainable, walkable communities, and we need to get the efficient use of land back onto the garden cities agenda.”

Jason Lowes, partner in the planning team at Rapleys, commented: “Garden communities, which might include new towns or villages, are key to delivering the quantum of housing that the country needs and should be welcomed in principle. However, they are by their nature a long term solution and only part of the picture.

“Nearer term solutions, such as the expansion of existing cities, towns and villages are also critically important to ensure that people who want to can find new homes close to their families. This needs to be pursued through intensifying densities in appropriate locations (not least town centres) and reviewing the spaces around existing settlement boundaries – including, if necessary and appropriate, green belt land.”

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