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Garden city proposed for Sheffield

Words: Laura Edgar

Last year’s winner of the Wolfson Prize has recommended that 100,000 homes be built in Sheffield and the surrounding area over the next 20 years.

David Rudlin’s winning essay suggested building new garden cities as extensions of existing large towns.

Now Rudlin, director of urban design agency Urbed, has produced a report for Sheffield City Council that builds on this idea and considers how 100,000 new homes can be accommodated in Sheffield and the surrounding area.

The figure, according to Sheffield: Garden City? (pdf), is higher than the housing projections being considered by the local authorities.

Rudlin considered a 15-kilometre radius around Sheffield, which included the conurbations of Sheffield, Rotherham, and small parts of North-East Derbyshire, Chesterfield and Barnsley.

The report outlines five potential sources of housing capacity:

  • Urban capacity: The report considers brownfield land, which has been estimated by the council as having the capacity for just over 20,000 homes. Additionally, brownfield land is considered to a “dynamic resource that is created as quickly as it is used up”. Therefore, as new stock will become available, the capacity is estimated at 32,000 homes.

  • Urban intensification: The subdivision of larger homes, backland development and the intensification of low-density council estates. This could provide 18,000 homes.

  • Remodelling: Neepsend and Attercliffe are identified as being once-busy neighbourhoods that now have very little housing. The neighbourhoods could be remodelled as “in-town garden cities”, accommodating 20,000 homes.

  • Accretion: The report suggests there may be some scope for 5,000 homes where sites are near existing centres.

  • Extension: Mosborough, Waverley and three smaller extensions – Bassingthorpe, Oughtibridge and Stocksbridge – are put forward to provide 25,000 homes.

However, little of what is laid out is compatible with the planning system as it stands, says the report. The homes designated under urban capacity, urban intensification and remodelling “cannot be measured to the satisfaction of a planning inspector” and would fail the deliverability test.

To avoid building on green belt and greenfield land, Sheffield would have to downgrade the city’s growth figures.

Yet, according to the report, this is why “we struggle to build the second, or indeed the third, fourth and fifth cities we need as a country”.

But Sheffield: Garden City? maintains that the city should pursue 100,000 homes rather than 70,000 in order to keep up with Leeds and Manchester. Therefore, it suggests unlocking urban capacity alongside limited greenfield releases with a form of land value capture model to ensure that the required infrastructure is paid for.

The report concludes: “It may be possible to produce a sound plan based on these lower figures while also pursuing more aspirational growth figures. This two-pronged approach is our main recommendation.”