Government to update New Towns Act 'to assist delivery of garden villages, towns and cities'

The government has committed to legislate to update the New Towns Act 1981 'to ensure we have a statutory vehicle well-equipped to support the delivery of new garden cities, towns and villages for the 21st century'.

New homes: government sets out new town proposals
New homes: government sets out new town proposals

The government published a prospectus yesterday inviting expressions of interest from local authorities "who want to create new communities based on garden city principles".

Locally-Led Garden Villages, Towns and Cities sets out the eligibility and prioritisation criteria for schemes put forward by councils. It also sets out government support available to progress such developments.

The document says that for garden towns and cities, the government considers that a New Town Development Corporation "may be a good option for delivery at this scale".

"It will be able to focus on resolving complex co-ordination challenges, can compulsorily purchase land under the ‘no scheme’ rules, and will be able to provide long-term planning certainty that is likely to be attractive to private sector investors and landowners."

The document adds that the government is "proposing to strengthen national planning policy to provide a more supportive approach for new settlements."

"We are committing to legislate to update the New Towns Act 1981 to ensure we have a statutory vehicle well-equipped to support the delivery of new garden cities, towns and villages for the 21st century", it says.

The idea was first floated by the Town and Country Planning Association in a report published 2014

Elsewhere, the document says that the government is "interested in working with local authorities which have a good track record of housing delivery who are prepared to commit to delivery of housing over and above their objectively assessed housing need through the creation of new garden villages."

It says that, in "exchange for guaranteed housing delivery, we will work with you to identify and deliver planning freedoms to support housing growth including, for example, ensuring that there is greater ability to resist speculative residential planning applications, and to continue protecting the green belt."

The proposal was included in a report by the Policy Exchange think-tank last year, written by influential peer Lord Matthew Taylor of Goss Moor. 

The prospectus document says that gardens villages, towns and cities should be "self-sustaining places, not dormitory suburbs" and "should have high quality and good design hard-wired in from the outset".

It says that garden village proposals should include between 1,500 to 10,000 homes, while new garden towns and cities should propose more than 10,000 homes.

"Our intention at this stage is to support up to 12 new garden village proposals", the document says, while larger schemes will be accepted on a "rolling basis".

"Recognising the exceptional nature of development at this scale, we expect to add to the garden towns and communities we are currently supporting at Ebbsfleet, Bicester, Basingstoke, Didcot, and in North Northamptonshire and North Essex", the document says.

The prospectus also says that garden villages "must be a new discrete settlement, and not an extension of an existing town or village" while larger schemes "may be on a new site away from existing settlements, or take the form of transformational development, both in nature or in scale to an existing settlement."

The document stresses the "need to demonstrate how the new settlement, including the necessary infrastructure, will be delivered. Effective land value capture can play an important role in funding infrastructure costs. We would encourage proposals that set out how land costs can be minimised, or land receipts deferred."

With regards to government support to help deliver the schemes, the document sets out the various government housing funds available and says "direct support can also be provided by the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA), including through their Advisory Team for Large Applications".

It also says government "can provide a tailored package of support that could include a limited amount of funding" which could be used "for example be used to ensure the local authority has the right skilled staff in place or pay for key studies and assessments".

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