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Councils require more funding to deliver garden villages, says RTPI

Words: Laura Edgar
Garden villages / Shutterstock_280811615

Large-scale housing sites like the government’s proposed garden villages can improve housing affordability but local authorities need more funding, leadership and support to deal with delivery challenges, according to a new report.

Delivering Large Scale Housing Schemes, a report produced by Heriot-Watt University and Three Dragons consultancy with RTPI South West, suggests that such developments can play an important part in solving the housing crisis.

It looks at six large housing developments in the south-west of England. Modelling features in the report indicate that house prices would be lower in the housing markets where the case studies are located by between 1 per cent and 8 per cent by 2021. This rises to between 2 per cent and 15 per cent by 2031, compared with if the developments were not built.

The case studies in Delivering Large Scale Housing Schemes are:

  • Bath Western Riverside (Bath)
  • Charlton Hayes (South Gloucestershire)
  • Cranbrook (East Devon)
  • Monkton Heathfield (Taunton)
  • Sherford (Devon)
  • Tolgus (Redruth)

In addition, these large developments could see local affordable social housing stock increase by up to 50 per cent.

However, such developments are complex, therefore local authorities need much more funding, leadership and support to deal with the challenges that arise during delivery, such as resolving land ownership, viability issues and negotiating with developers throughout the scheme’s life.

Further, the report notes that although the contribution from these sites can be beneficial, most of those considered were produced through strategic planning processes that have been abolished. The RTPI South West says urgent steps are needed to find new ways to bring forward new large sites.

Research on the RTPI’s membership has suggested that planners feel they need stronger training and support on development finance/viability, infrastructure planning and delivery, project management and negotiation skills.

Richard Blyth, head of policy at the RTPI, said: “The experience of the last 20 years shows that piecemeal incremental developments alone will not meet the level of demand for new homes. We must therefore ensure there is proper, long-term planning and delivery for housing on a large scale if the country is serious about meeting its housing need in all tenures.”

He said the housing white paper hasn’t really addressed the critical issues facing large sites.

“It asks whether planning procedures should be streamlined to ‘support innovation and high-quality development in new garden towns and villages’, but our report shows that we need more, not less, planning to getting large sites right without the delays and compromises we see so often.”

The report suggests that delivering large-scale development requires a range of skills and approaches that are likely to be unfamiliar to many local authorities. Additionally, if developers are going to promote large sites they need to establish partnerships among themselves, and with local authorities and key stakeholders early on in the process.

Communities, said Blyth, are wary of large sites for good reasons. Central and local government must put planning at the centre “if they are serious about making a success of developing new garden villages and housing at scale”.

David Lowin, chair of the RTPI South West region, said: “The advantages of large-scale releases of land for housing and the building of communities is clear in this research. However, allocations are not going to be successful or delivered in an efficient way unless those who are dealing with such schemes in planning departments are given the resources. Councils are facing a £5.8 billion funding shortfall by 2020, and planning departments are in dire need of additional funding having suffered disproportionately from cuts in the age of austerity since 2010.”

Delivering Large Scale Housing Schemes can be found on the RTPI website (pdf).

Image credit | Shutterstock