Garden villages could be the answer to the housing crisis

Over one million new homes could be built over the next ten years if local authorities committed to the construction of garden villages, according to a new think tank report.

Garden Villages, released by Policy Exchange, argues that a future government can overcome local opposition to development by devolving powers to councils with the intention of setting up new garden villages. Under the proposal, locally led development corporations set by councils would be charged with master-planning; setting quality design standards for the construction; and allocating plots to a range of providers to create a new wave of garden villages. In return, these local authorities would be allowed to rule out having development around existing communities forced on them through appeal.

Authored by Lord Matthew Taylor, who advised the last Labour government and the Coalition on planning policy, the report says new development is currently based on building around existing communities, predominantly on green spaces. The resulting high land values can lead to developers building higher density and lower quality houses, with less money to pay for infrastructure and amenities.

The report claims this has triggered a “vicious cycle” in which local communities become surrounded by poor quality properties in dense housing estates.

Lord Taylor therefore suggests reforming the New Towns Act to allow local authorities – instead of the secretary of state – to create new communities of up to 5,000 new homes. Plots would be specifically earmarked for small and medium builders as well as the self-build sector, with others available for larger firms. Green Villages maintains that this would “support a more market responsive housing supply to address housing need”.

Lord Taylor said: “Empowering councils to create new garden villages to meet local housing demand and capture all the land value uplift is critical if we are to win over the support of existing residents and build the homes we so desperately need.”

Policy Exchange has suggested that if each of England’s 353 councils were to construct one garden village containing as little as 3,000 homes, the resulting influx of new housing would significantly help reduce the housing crisis.

To read Garden Villages: Empowering localism to solve the housing crisis, click here

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