Up to 40 garden cities needed say garden city competition finalists

Wolfson garden city finalists argue for dozens of new garden cities while greening of existing towns also proposed.

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

The creation of new public parks and urban green spaces are a key factor in the shortlisted entries to a competition aimed at finding the best idea for a new garden city.

Facilities for production horticulture and allotments are also popular with the five finalists, announced today.

Three 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.

One team - 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.

"The scheme is based on the notion that 3,000ha of green space will be created to match the 3,000 ha of development. This is the garden in which the city is to be set," the entry reads. It suggests that every home be 300m from an accessible natural green space. Schools, with attendant sports and playing fields would also be built.

"Our notion is that the new public open space would be acquired by the Garden City promoter and would be developed as a rich resource for the whole of the city. It would include ecologically rich woodland planting, sports facilities, country parks and market gardens."

The proposal suggests that this, along with other improvements such as a tram system, will form ‘social contract’ with the residents so they are persuaded to back their town’s planned expansion.

The four other submissions for the £250,000 Wolfson Economics Prize are as follows:

  • 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.
  • 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.

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

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