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Housing crisis needs 40 garden cities

Shelter Garden City

As many 40 new garden cities are needed to solve the housing crisis, according to planners and architects shortlisted for a prestigious prize.

The 2014 Wolfson Economics Prize this year looks at submissions on the question: “How would you deliver a new Garden City which is visionary, economically viable, and popular?”

Submissions from three of the five finalists suggest that 30 to 40 cities with between 10,000 and 50,000 homes are needed over the next 20 years.

Planning and design consultancy Barton Willmore propose four garden city ‘types’ – including the 'greening' of existing new towns – to deliver up to 40 new garden cities. Each garden city would deliver 40,000 to 50,000 homes built over the next 25 years, as well as 40,000 to 50,000 jobs.

David Rudlin, of urban design and research practice URBED, argues for the near-doubling of existing large towns in line with garden city principles to provide 86,000 new homes for 150,000 people built over 30 to 35 years. As many as 40 cities in England, such as York, Norwich, Stafford and Cheltenham, could double in size, says Rudlin.

Wei Yang & Partners and Peter Freeman call for an ‘arc’ stretching from Southampton to Oxford then to Cambridge to Felixstowe for a first round of new garden cities. It uses a model of 10,000 homes and 10,000 jobs to test a strategy for 30 to 40 garden cities built over 10 to 15 years. 30 per cent of new homes would be affordable housing.

Chris Blundell, director of development and regeneration at Golding Homes, recommends that a garden city of 15,000 homes should be developed south-east of Maidstone in Kent.

Homeless charity Shelter proposes a new garden city on the Hoo Peninsula in Medway, Kent (pictured). It would start with 15,000 homes built over 15 years, growing to a garden city of 60,000 homes.

Barton Willmore director Jenni Montgomery said social awareness of the benefits of development was needed to properly tackle the housing crisis on a larger scale.

“One garden city doesn’t solve the housing problem,” she said. “The key to this is scalability and certainty, which you don’t get with a single site.

"There are mechanisms in the planning system that can make it work, we’ve learned from eco-towns and neighbourhood plans. But it’s a 25 to 35-year process – it’s an evolution, not a model.

“People need to understand that development is good. We’ve looked at sites where this kind of development can give impetus to economic growth, not just where there’s a housing need.”

There were 279 entries to the competition from around the world. The winner of the £250,000 prize will be announced on 3 September 2014, followed by an exhibition of entries at The Building Centre, London.