Adviser: garden cities 'won't solve housing problem'

New garden cities would not be enough to solve England's housing crisis, the peer who advised the government on its recent planning guidance reduction exercise has warned.

Lord Taylor: 'Three garden cities aren’t going to make a major difference'
Lord Taylor: 'Three garden cities aren’t going to make a major difference'

Speaking yesterday at an event in London organised by membership body the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), Lib Dem peer Lord Taylor of Goss Moor said that "two or three big" garden cities are "not going to solve the housing problem".

Lord Taylor said: "It’s not going to solve the housing problem [because] you would go a decade or more before the first house is built achieving the go-ahead for anything on that kind of scale.

"Government would have to go through a process of looking for sites all over the country. You would not have just two or three arguments, you would have a huge number of arguments.

"Milton Keynes at its peak only delivered 3,500 homes in one year and that’s the maximum it ever delivered. We need 300,000. Three garden cities aren’t going to make a major difference."

Lord Taylor suggested that local authorities should instead be "empowered to do their own communities … in negotiation with local landowners and others … but doing it at a scale that is actually deliverable quickly. A local solution to local housing need, but doing it in lots of places as a response to those local needs".

The peer’s comments follow reports of a rift between coalition government partners over garden cities. Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg said at the weekend that the government must be "honest and upfront" about the importance of creating new garden cities and of where their locations should be.

Lord Taylor was speaking at the launch of a new CLA report, Tackling the Housing Crisis in England, which recommends that "disproportionate planning regulation" must be reduced to boost housing supply in rural areas.
It says that planning authorities "often demand huge quantities of material before they will validate planning applications for small-scale rural development".

According to the report, some rural-based planning authorities do not provide pre-application advice, or "charge far too much for it".

It calls for consistency across all planning authorities on providing pre-application advice at "an affordable price for small-scale rural development".

It also says that planning authorities should not adopt a "one-size-fits-all" approach to the planning application process, "not least in the information they require from applicants".

"This does not work," the report said. "The information required must be relevant and its extent must be proportionate to the proposed development and reasonable in all other respects."

The CLA’s report also recommends that business-led local enterprise partnerships should be handed responsibility for preparing strategic housing market assessments (SHMAs) "on the basis that housing growth represents economic growth".

Tackling the Housing Crisis in England is available here.

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