Urban extension plan scoops Wolfson garden city award

Wolfson Economics Prize founder Lord Wolfson has said the concept of a green belt is 'right', but should not be 'fixed for all time' as he unveiled the winning proposal in a competition aimed at building a new garden city.

Uxcester: plan would focus on urban extensions

Urban design and research consultancy Urbed director David Rudlin, who was awarded the £250,000 prize last night, suggested that the next government should drop the idea of building new garden cities and instead allow existing cities to expand, taking "a confident bite out of the green belt."

He suggested introducing a Garden Cities Act that would allow cities to bid for "garden city status", which would enable them to double in size while protecting the majority of green belt land, providing new homes for up to 150,000 people per town over 30-35 years.

Cities which could benefit include Northampton, Norwich, Oxford, Rugby, Reading and Stafford, he said.

Rudlin’s entry was prepared with colleague Dr Nicholas Falk, Pete Redman of financial advisors TradeRisks Limited and urban designer Jon Rowland, and created an imaginary town called Uxcester to develop the concept.

Homelessness charity Shelter won a runner-up prize of £50,000 for its entry proposing a new garden city on the Hoo Peninsula in Medway, Kent.

The other finalists were consultancy Barton Willmore, planning and architectural consultancy Wei Yang & Partner and Argent founder Peter Freeman, and Golding Homes director of development and regeneration, Chris Blundell.

The judges Highly Commended four entries, which each received a £1,000 prize.

They were Mark Brierley of NVB Architects and independent consultant Patrick Newberry, Peter Freeman of Argent, town planners Alice Leach and Richard Crutchley, and the late Professor Sir Peter Hall of University College London.

‘Light Bulb’ prizes of £1,000 were awarded to entrants whose entries addressed aspects of the prize question in innovative or creative ways.

The winners were Urban designer Ben Clark, consultants Henry Cleary and Andrew Wells, consultant Martin Hewes, architect Robbie Kerr, and town planner Lachlan Robertson MRTPI.

The judges also awarded £50 each to three children who entered.

Speaking to Planning, Tory peer and chief executive of retailer Next Lord Wolfson, who launched the competition last year, said: "The concept of creating a band around cities in which people understand that development will not take place is right. To say it should be fixed for all time is wrong."

On the need to capture much more of the land value uplift created by planning permission for the infrastructure needed to support good quality development, he added: "At the moment we are squandering most of the planning gain that we ought to be investing in infrastructure by giving it to a few fortunate landowners.

"Developers have to buy land expensively and it means that they are having to skimp elsewhere. That has to change."

Wolfson Economics Prize director Miles Gibson said that the answer was not necessarily for the government to take a bigger slice of planning gain for the public purse.

"It might be ok for the government to still give that gain away, as long as it was given to an institution that was clearly prepared to spend it on quality of place, affordable housing, infrastructure and so on - maybe to a landowner prepared to defer profit."

Full details on all the prize winners can be found here.