Ebbsfleet garden city infrastructure funding decision nears

The boss of the body responsible for delivering a new garden city at Ebbsfleet, Kent, has said that it will learn later this month how much government cash it will be handed for upfront infrastructure investment.

Fastrack bus rapid transit link to Ebbsfleet International Station
Fastrack bus rapid transit link to Ebbsfleet International Station

Speaking yesterday at a breakfast seminar organised by consultancy Iceni Projects, Robin Cooper, chief executive of the Ebbsfleet Development Corporation, said that funding details would be set out by the chancellor George Osborne, who is due to deliver his Spending Review and Autumn Statement on 25 November.

Cooper said that Osborne had previously pledged up to £200 million of infrastructure funding for the garden city project.

"We will find out in his statement at the end of November exactly how much we’ve got," Cooper said.

"But it will a significant sum of money, in the hundreds of millions, I’m quite sure."

Cooper told the seminar that the cash is urgently needed as the price tag to deliver the first 10,000 homes of the garden city is "simply unaffordable" for developers.

He said: "The cost of a secondary school at the moment is around £40 million. We need three of those, so you can do the maths. You start adding in the primary schools and everything else there, and the whole thing is just unaffordable."

Cooper said that only 350 units have been delivered in the last 14 years at Ebbsfleet.

"And that’s all because the infrastructure isn’t there," he said. "There’s a major problem with sewage there. You can only actually build another 40 houses before literally the sewage works will overflow. It’s that serious."

Also speaking at the seminar, Lord Taylor, who drew up the new online planning practice guidance for the government, said that ministers should "break the political issue" of residents being opposed to homes around the edges of the towns and villages by offering them a deal.

He suggested that the government give communities a guarantee that they are not at risk of appeal on greenfield sites around their towns and villages should they be prepared to accept standalone new settlements.

He explained: "We say you get your protection of your community from development you don’t want, and in return we will build a new community over the hill where you can’t see it. We’ll take one big decision for 5,000 homes, and not multiple decisions for 300 homes."

Lord Taylor said that this would allow the government to offer a "rolling guarantee that so long as the supply is there, so long as the delivery is there, so long as it is not being rationed once you’ve taken those decisions, you are not at risk of appeal".

Ian Anderson, executive director at Iceni Projects, argued that urban extensions – rather than standalone new settlements - are the best way to deliver sustainable growth.

He also told the seminar that the government should "stop messing with the system, leave it alone, and let councils put development plans in place".

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