MP urges high standards of design at Ebbsfleet garden city

The Tory MP who drew up the party's planning proposals when in opposition has said that the government must ensure that the proposed garden city at Ebbsfleet is not made up of 'rabbit hutch' homes.

Ebbsfleet: Hilary Benn and Eric Pickles traded blows over proposals during debate
Ebbsfleet: Hilary Benn and Eric Pickles traded blows over proposals during debate

Speaking yesterday during a debate on measures in last week's Budget, Henley MP John Howell, who wrote the Tories' Open Source Planning green paper when in opposition, said that a "key element" of the Ebbsfleet garden city "must be an emphasis on design".

Howell said: "It is essential that it is an attractive place where people want to live. Design must play a key role because of the important that the project will have in the minds of other people who are thinking about having a garden city.

"We do not just want rabbit hutches and boxes to be built. All eyes will be on this city in determining whether communities are willing to participate."

Also during the debate, shadow communities secretary Hilary Benn said that the 15,000 homes proposed by the chancellor for the Ebbsfleet garden city "is 5,000 fewer than the 20,000-home development announced for Ebbsfleet" by the government in December 2012.

"Only this chancellor could proclaim a smaller development as a triumph - backwards not forwards."

But communities secretary Eric Pickles said that announcement represented "decisive action and investment that Labour failed to deliver".

"The original announcement was made in John Prescott's 2003 sustainable communities plan, but the Labour Party failed to build at Ebbsfleet," he said.

Meanwhile, Tory MP Gareth Johnson, whose constituency includes the site of the proposed Ebbsfleet garden city, said: "The scheme is bold and forward thinking and, if implemented correctly, will enhance the local area and help ease some of the pressure on housing in the South-East."

Johnson said it is "crucial that local people form part of the decision-making process".

"There must be a role for Dartford Council, which has proactively tried to make the development happen in recent years," he said.

"There must be opportunities for local people to input their thoughts and suggestions, as the concept simply will not work if the development is imposed on local residents."

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