The government launched its garden cities prospectus in April, and called for expressions of interest from local authorities "for how they wish to develop garden cities".
The prospectus offered central government funding and support to interested areas and said proposals should involve at least 15,000 homes.
Cathal Rock, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG)’s garden cities policy manager, told a conference in Ebbsfleet, Kent, last week that it is in advanced talks with several locations. "The overall response has been positive. Some places contact us on a reasonably regular basis," he added.
But, following a Freedom of Information Act request from Planning, the DCLG would not reveal how many formal expressions of interest it has received to date. Speaking after the conference, Rock said a public announcement would be made by the end of the year.
However, the prospectus and further proposals put forward in August (PlanningResource, 11 August), for an urban development corporation (UDC) for Ebbsfleet were criticised by other speakers.
Mike Lambert, planning director at developer Countryside Properties slammed the prospectus as "completely unrealistic" given the lack of a strategic planning system above the local level. He said: "The government needs to say: ‘We will actually make it happen.’"
He added that local authorities will not sign up for garden cities "without a much more sophisticated approach, about where they should go, how they’re delivered and what the compensation is going to be for people affected by it."
David Lock, strategic planning adviser at David Lock Associates, said the government has proposed a garden city for Ebbsfleet and set up a UDC "because it is desperate to show that it can get houses built".
Lock, a former government planning adviser, warned that the UDC should not be used "just to churn out houses" and said emphasising housing quantity over place-making would be a "wasted opportunity" for Ebbsfleet.
The UDC "will be judged by the quality of place you make", he said. He added: "If we in a hurry to give the chancellor houses, we will end up with something really awful."
He also said the garden cities prospectus fails to address the key issue of how a large new settlement would get planning permission.
Kent moves forward on County-wide cooperation
Authorities in Kent are considering whether to cooperate on county-wide strategic planning issues, according to a council leader.
Paul Carter, leader of Kent County Council, told a conference that planning authorities and the county are "reinventing" Kent’s structure plan.
Structure plans were drawn up by county councils and covered strategic issues above the local level such as housing and transport infrastructure.
They were swept away by the previous Labour government in 2004 and replaced with regional plans, in turn abolished by the coalition.
Carter, speaking at a garden cities conference in Ebbsfleet, said: "We are trying to get coherence around the sense of a place called Kent and Medway and how local plans fit into that larger template. That’s a work in progress, supported by the 12 districts and boroughs in Kent."
This week, Basildon and Brentwood Borough Councils said they would sign an agreement to cooperate on new housing development to help meet the Localism Act 2011’s duty to cooperate.
The neighbouring Essex councils said they would sign a memorandum of understanding early in November to ensure that they work together to assess whether land west of Laindon and east of West Horndon could meet some of their development needs.