Enabling green development

With housebuilding running at about half that required to meet the housing shortage, it is no surprise to see politicians of every hue embrace the garden city concept in the hope it can kick-start larger-scale development with a green vision that will counter local fears of characterless urban sprawl.

The problem, as leading landscape figures have re-iterated this week (see p3), is the detail remains scant, making it hard to see how embracing the concept will a) give housebuilding the step up it needs or b) create a new generation of truly landscape-led developments.

Some garden-city-style developments are in the pipeline. For example, a 10,000-home new town in south Cambridge set to incorporate sustainable principles and a 4,500-home Crest Nicholson scheme, also in Cambridgeshire, to be designed in line with garden village principles. But such approaches remain rare.

If politicians really want to drive forward developments that properly incorporate green infrastructure, they need only look across the Channel for examples of governments that insist a percentage of the budget for any development is set aside and ring-fenced for soft landscaping and greening measures.

Add to that a procurement approach that maximises investment in landscaping by bringing it to the front of the project timeline, measures to ensure that decisions on the funding of ongoing maintenance of green areas are taken upfront and the appointment of a landscape champion for larger schemes, and we could see real and immediate progress.

They would also do well to visit the new city of Almere in the Netherlands. It is leading the way in green city development, aided by cash for its ambitious greening schemes levied directly from developers wanting a piece of the action.

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