GARDEN COMMUNITIES

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GARDEN COMMUNITIES- Why Communities Say NoA report by Smart Growth UKAPRIL .org0

ContentsForeword by Griff Rhys Jones2Introduction4Why Communities Are Saying No5Garden Communities Endorsed by the Government6Bailrigg Garden Village7Dunton Garden Village14North Essex Garden Communities17Otterpool Garden Town23Oxfordshire Cotswold Garden Village24Welborne Garden Village29Other Garden Village Proposals34Buckover Garden Village35London Colney Garden Village39North Uttlesford Garden Communities42Tandridge Garden Villages44A Smart Growth Alternative49Conclusions511

ForewordBy Griff Rhys JonesSo here we go. We are in the throes of another “emergency” and this is one that has been solong coming and has been so urgent for such an extended period that we must sometimeswonder whether we have been driving on towards the cliff wearing a blindfold. We need houses.Of course. We need to expand the stock of live-able places. Yes. We have done so for a longtime. It is now apparently a “crisis”. OK.But it is really a crisis of thinking, organisation and intent, not a crisis of build, build, build. Inevery emergency, the standard warning prevails. Don’t license panic. You will make things worse.Bad emergencies make for bad results.Let’s examine a main concept here before we go any further. “Planning” by definition meanslooking to the future. That must mean the long-term future as well as the next few years. Weneed to recognize that people who urge care, caution and attention are not dwelling in the past.They are protecting the future. More than anything, the conservation of scarce resources, thepromotion of good design, the creation of live-able places and the building of new urban areas(especially in virgin sites in that limited resource - our countryside) needs to be done with an eyeon a long-term future. This is the real meaning of sustainability.We are doing something that will affect the well-being of our children, their children and theirdescendants for centuries ahead. It is about what we make and what it will become. It is aboutcreating a new heritage, not solving a selfish need. We have to do it well. We have seen thefailure of urban sprawl created by an opportunistic free-for-all. We must learn from it. When wesaw what we had done in the thirties, as a society, we introduced rules to contain ourselves. Theyincluded national parks and green belts. They included restrictions on urban sprawl and blight.And they were good.It might appear that “garden communities” as envisaged by the Government as a reaction to theabove emergency, and detailed in these pages, are in the same vein. There was talk of new gardencities. There were promises to provide affordable homes with the consent and advice ofcommunities. There were high sounding words offering to create beautiful new places withadequate transport to ensure that they were also sustainable and “green”.Read this document. The pages that follow show that fine words are meaningless withoutleadership. Good intentions are worthless unless you stick to them. Guidelines are dangerouswithout the strength to ensure that they are acted upon.2

Here, below, we have the real plan. Here are disordered schemes that ignore local communitiesand build on flood plains and unsuitable sites. We encounter proposals that are not going toanswer local needs for housing at all, but will waste precious countryside by building low densitysprawling estates and creating expensive houses. These are nearly all extensions and not newsettlements. Many of these faults are happening because of the absence of any proper proceduresto control the price of land. Proposals for compulsory purchase have been abandoned.Alongside that a willingness to create affordable houses has been abandoned too. We read of theabsence of proper transport and of the vaguest possible lip-service to community facilities: nocycle paths, no parks, no shops, no provision of upgrade in facilities such as water, wastedisposal, healthcare or education. No “places” at all, in fact. Just more sprawl.What sort of a new Jerusalem are we intending to create in Britain’s green and pleasant land?Having travelled the length and breadth of this country, I can report that it is still a beautifulplace. But it needs enlightened protection. To preserve a country worth living in we must do thissort of building properly. It must be well designed and thought through. Mark my words, everyfive years hence, there will be a new emergency. It is inevitable. Can our leaders and plannerspromise that we have the guidelines in place to respond to them well?CPRE have once again researched the figures. Brownfield land in England can accommodateone million houses. So get on with it and use that. But if we do need to go out into thecountryside let us provide the right sort of new communities and let’s do it by bringing down thecost of land, by rewarding owners of these sites but not enriching them beyond their wildestdreams, by not impoverishing our own future with a shoddy scramble of free-for-allopportunism, seemingly based on the principle that the winner takes all and leaves nothing forthe rest of us except desolate blight. We might then create genuine affordable useful homes ingood places that will last the course.The protests, assessments and legitimate concerns gathered below make sober reading. There is asimple rule in building which every craftsman knows. Prepare properly and it will last longer.Build only on good foundations. These major works envisaged to smother the countryside seemto be scrappy, hurried and unskilled. They will come to haunt us if they go ahead.Griff Rhys JonesPresident, Civic Voice3

Introduction“Garden communities” – garden cities, garden towns, garden villages or, in reality, usually gardensuburbs – are a central plank of the Government’s drive to get more homes built. In England theGovernment is supporting development of 10 garden towns or cities and 14 garden villages,while the Welsh Government is also supporting a garden town outside Cardiff. Beyond those,dozens of substantial greenfield developments are being promoted as garden villages by theirpromoters.Communities secretary Sajid Javid recently said that “locally led garden towns have enormouspotential to deliver the homes that communities need”1. Many of the communities involved inhaving a garden community imposed on them, however, disagree. Cash-strapped local authoritiesmay have been financially induced to support the schemes, but the communities themselves are,for the most part, strongly opposed. Yet they have been denied a voice; the developments arenot locally led and will do little to provide the homes the country, and still less the communitiesthemselves, actually need.In May 2017, the Smart Growth UK coalition published a report2 on the Government’sproposals for Government-supported garden towns and villages in England. Garden Towns &Villages – Unwanted, Unnecessary and Unsustainable examined the 24 proposals in relation to “gardencity principles”, their use of land, their demand for infrastructure, their impact on housing need,their proposed transport links and the views of local communities. The report proposed analternative way of providing homes based on the Smart Growth approach.Despite the opposition, the Government has continued to promote its garden community plansand more and more unofficial proposals continue to be mooted. But there is a gathering tide ofanger about the greenfield sprawl now being promoted across the country and, while gardencommunities would, in reality, only account for a small proportion of this, their advocates claimthey demonstrate an intellectual and moral case for such low-density, car-dependentdevelopments.Effective local campaigns are running in opposition to many of the garden community proposalsbut they are finding their perfectly legitimate concerns ignored. They face a system which hasbecome increasingly geared to sweeping opposition aside and securing the support of localauthorities whether they really want the developments or not.Supporters of garden communities, particularly those with substantial vested interests in theirdevelopment, will dismiss opponents as “NIMBYs”. Yet that term is generally used to attackpeople who are defending their local environment by those who are seeking to profit from itsdestruction. Standing up for your local environment and conservation is not merely a basic right,however, it’s a moral obligation.In this report we are giving many of those voices a chance to be heard in unison. Here they setout their views on the damage these plans would do.4

Why the Communities Are Saying NoHuge areas of farmland are threatened with destruction [Hands Off Wivenhoe]The case against garden communities was set out in detail in our report last year3 and can be readthere. In summary the objections are: few of the proposals are the new stand-alone settlements demanded by garden cityprinciples and some are merely unrelated urban extensions many miles apart; most proposals would have low-densities, squandering precious land wastefully; few make significant or, in many cases, any use of brownfield land; the proposals would all necessitate extensive new infrastructure and, in many cases, noprovision has been made; most of the proposals are largely or wholly dependent on road transport, increasinggreenhouse gas emissions, and most would further exacerbate congestion on local roads; despite the requirement that they be “locally supported”, in reality this amounts to littlemore than acceptance by local authorities in response to offers of cash; many are the subject of fierce local opposition.Smart Growth is an holistic approach to planning and transportation to secure sustainabledevelopment and achieves the most when all the parts work in harmony with one another. Notall of the groups here represented support all of the approach in its entirety, but certain themesemerge regularly from their input which lend support to the Smart Growth concept. Theseinclude the need to protect our land and the ecosystem services it provides, the highinfrastructure cost of greenfield development, particularly at remote locations and theunlikelihood of that full need being met and the inevitable car-dependency of new, low-densitysettlements far from rail-based networks. Dispersed greenfield development is high-carbondevelopment.5

Garden Communities Endorsed by the GovernmentThe Government is supporting 10 “garden towns and cities” and 14 “garden villages” inEngland though some are, confusingly, also called garden communities. Very few of them arethe stand-alone developments demanded by the prospectus and some are just aggregations ofurban extensions to existing towns, sometimes many miles apart.The developments are supposed to be “locally-led”, but often this simply means that hardpressed local authorities have been inveigled into supporting such developments to gain a shareof the funding the Government is offering. In October 2017 the Department for Communitiesand Local Government allocated further funding of 2.5m to nine of the ten “garden towns”(the exception being the predominantly brownfield Ebbsfleet).“Garden towns being supported by Government are committed to delivering high quality, wellplaned [sic] and well-designed new communities that will stand out as exemplars of gooddevelopment in years to come4,” said the announcement.Further proposals are also likely to gain Government support. In November 2017, the NationalInfrastructure Co

“Garden communities” – garden cities, garden towns, garden villages or, in reality, usually garden suburbs – are a central plank of the Government’s drive to get more homes built. In England the Government is supporting development of 10 garden towns or cities and 14 garden villages,

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