Up to 40 garden cities needed to meet housing need, say Wolfson finalists

Up to 40 garden cities are needed to solve Britain's housing crisis, according to three of the five finalists in a national competition to build a major new settlement.

A visualisation of Shelter's entry
A visualisation of Shelter's entry

The five final submissions for the £250,000 Wolfson Economics Prize, which will be handed to the best idea for a new garden city, were published this morning.

Three of the five finalists independently suggest building between 30 and 40 garden cities to meet Britain’s housing need. The other two propose single 5,000-home settlements in Kent.

The overall winner will be announced next Wednesday at the gala dinner of the Royal Institute of British Architects.

The final entries are from:

  • Planning consultancy Barton Willmore, whose submission was led by director James Gross, proposes 40 new settlements over the next 25 years. It says that each would deliver 40-50,000 homes, of which 35 per cent would be affordable housing, as well as 40-50,000 jobs. The firm proposes a national pro-development campaign highlighting the potential problems the housing crisis could create for future generations. The consultancy proposes a royal commission, with locally-based garden city commissions, to be appointed to champion garden cities and find specific locations for development in the broad regions mapped out in the submission.

  • David Rudlin, a director at regeneration consultancy URBED, and colleague Dr Nicholas Falk, supported by Pete Redman of financial advisors TradeRisks Limited and urban designer Jon Rowland, show how an imaginary town called Uxcester could be doubled in size in line with garden city principles. This would provide 86,000 new homes over 30 to 35 years with 20 per cent affordable housing. They also apply the idea to Oxford and argue that up to 40 English cities could be doubled in size in this way, including York, Norwich, Stafford and Cheltenham.

  • London-based planning and architectural consultancy Wei Yang & Partner and Peter Freeman, founder of developer Argent, argue that an arc stretching from Southampton to  Felixstowe via Oxford and Cambridge is the best location for a first round of new garden cities. They propose a model of 10,000 homes, with 30 per cent affordable housing, and 10,000 jobs for perhaps 30 to 40 garden cities built over 10 to 15 years. The entry invites local authorities to ask government to set up a locally-controlled garden city development corporation.

  • Chris Blundell, director of development and regeneration at Golding Homes, propose a garden city south east of Maidstone, Kent. This would accommodate about 15,000 homes, Blundell says, of which 40 per cent would be affordable, coupled with a new High Speed One railway station. Delivery should be led by a garden city development corporation with a community council undertaking the long-term management of the settlement.

  • Homelessness charity Shelter proposes a new garden city on the Hoo Peninsula in Medway, Kent. Beginning with a settlement of 15,000 homes built over 15 years, the Stoke Harbour scheme would eventually grow into a garden city of 60,000 homes with 37.5 per cent affordable housing. New polling for Shelter in the submission shows that 55 per cent of people in Medway support a new garden city on the Hoo Peninsula, compared to just 33 per cent who oppose it.

Last November, Tory peer Lord Simon Wolfson, the chief executive of retailer Next, launched the competition with the question: "How would you deliver a new garden city which is visionary, economically viable and popular?"

Speaking this morning, Wolfson said: "We urgently need to build more houses in Britain. I am delighted that this year’s Wolfson Economics Prize has generated so many powerful and creative proposals for new garden cities.

"Together these entries present an overwhelming argument in favour of a new approach to solving our housing crisis."

An exhibition of entries opens next Thursday at The Building Centre, the home of New London Architecture, in Store Street, London.

In response to today's announcement, planning and housing minister Brandon Lewis said: "We are committed to working with communities across the country who have ideas for a new generation of garden cities and we are inviting areas with locally-supported plans to come forward.

"But we do not intend to follow the failed example of top-down eco-towns from the last administration. Picking housing numbers out of thin air and imposing them on local communities builds nothing but resentment.

"This government has abolished regional quangos’ role in planning – instead, we have empowered elected local councils to determine where new homes should and shouldn’t go."

More details on the final submissions can be found here.


NOTE: this story was amended at 3.45pm on Thursday, August 28, to add a comment by Brandon Lewis.

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