Early in the New Year we saw the Government’s announcement of the location of 14 new ‘Garden Villages’. These will stretch across England, from Cumbria to Devon and £6 million funding will be made available over the next two financial years to support their implementation. It is anticipated that new homes arising from these village developments could total 48,000. If successful, will they change the trajectory of local housing delivery?
Garden Villages, which typically represent distinct new places rather than extensions to existing urban areas, have been hailed as having the potential to ease the housing crisis whilst also supporting local authorities. Garden Villages emerged in 2016 as a key strand of the Government’s housing policy with a DCLG prospectus released in March 2016 providing local authorities with the opportunity to bid for the funding for new Garden Villages of between 1,500 to 10,000 homes.
It is argued that by building outside of existing settlements and by creating smaller schemes, development is less likely to face local planning opposition, which is often centred on the issue of large-scale schemes ‘inundating’ existing towns. In addition, delivering to local plan timescales could be made easier for authorities, as housing demand could be tackled with a single new settlement.
The Government intends to work with the 14 selected local authorities to deliver these Garden Villages, focussing particularly on planning legislation and resourcing. This follows recent research which identified that nearly 90% of local authorities believe they will not be able to meet the Government’s housing targets because of a lack of resources in their planning departments. Some do have concerns regarding the small percentage of affordable housing within these sites. Critics have also argued that some newly announced Garden Villages have been in the planning system for years and have simply been ‘re-badged’. It is also likely that any plans to build on the green belt will still face significant local opposition.
There are questions about the scale that will be needed to enable them to thrive economically, particularly learning the lessons from new towns.
It remains to be seen what the real impact of Garden Villages will be, but what appears certain is that this form of development and the role of local authorities in planning local delivery, is likely to play an increasing role in housing policy going forward.
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