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Planning infrastructure and place for garden communities

Above: Original plan for Hampstead Garden Suburb

Our Future Cities Forum on 26th June at London City Hall will conclude with round table discussions looking at joined-up infrastructure for cities and planning for new towns and garden communities.

Simon Payne of Lambsquay Consulting, who is leading one of the round table discussions on 26 June, writes here about planning lessons from the past for the future of housing development for new communities:

Are there lessons for urban regeneration emerging from the new garden communities being planned in the UK? The Town and Country Planning Association is providing strong leadership through nine principles that have their roots in the 20th Century Garden City Movement. Each principle has been formulated in the context of 21st century challenges.

How is it that we currently have a development process that directs resourcing away from much needed infrastructure and quality of life objectives? Grant of planning permission often gifts a huge financial windfall to the landowner (for example on the allocation of land for housing in a local plan the value of one acre can increase 20 times - with further premiums when planning permission is obtained). £100 million in a new settlement which could otherwise fund excellent schools, high quality design and much needed genuinely affordable housing. Land value capture is at the heart of success in this case.

Stewardship is a second key priority. The creation of an entity, with an assured income in perpetuity, that belongs and is managed by the new community to look after and maintain public spaces and buildings in the new place. This approach also links into the need to build in adaptability to design so the community can meet their needs as technology and behaviours change. A new settlement can take a generation to be built and in that time there will be great technological change. We can no longer think in terms of creating the perfect end state plan for a place. For example a future world made up exclusively of autonomous vehicles will result in differing demands for our public spaces.

Finally we need to think more holistically. Putting the quality of life of people at the heart of creating new places. Recognising that catchment areas of excellent schools are a better incentive than slick marketing. That schools linked to local business (for instance STEM schools), and the provision of genuinely affordable housing, start to give people more choices about where they live. Great design of buildings and spaces with real community involvement underpinned the Garden City Movement. We surely need to apply these principles to the new communities of the 21st century whether or not they exist on greenfield sites.

Simon Payne DipTP MSc MRTPI FCMI

Director: Lambsquay Consulting of Cambridge Limited

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