Do garden towns still have a place in modern society?
The concept of garden communities originated in the late 19th Century to tackle the heavy industrialisation and poor conditions of the time. These developments of over 10,000 homes surrounded by green space aimed to improve living conditions, both socially and economically.
Nowadays, the housing crisis has become the focus, leading to garden towns moving away from their original principles. However, David Pendle, associate director at the firm’s planning consultancy, Marrons Planning, believes that doesn’t mean they’ve lost their desirability and purpose.
Garden town principles
The Town and Country Planning Association holds a list of principles that define a garden community. These include:
• Green space
• Affordable homes
• Local jobs
• Accessible transport systems
• The capture of land value
• The use of assets to pay for community services
Each of these principles are there to ensure the development benefits the community, the economy and the environment.
Although a number of these principles need to be present for a development to be called a garden town, some are often overlooked. This may be because they focus on community ideals rather than housing and so are less relevant in today’s society.
Benefits to developers
There are three main benefits of labelling a development a ‘garden community’. These are:
1. Government garden town competitions – Developers can bid for support ranging from funding to political backing
2. Local authorities – Should a garden town bid be successful in one of these competitions, local authorities will be more likely to welcome any plans
3. Branding – A recognised garden towns should be received better by the public it is marketing to
Still fit for purpose?
It is true that the label of ‘garden town’ sometimes outshines the principles that support it, but such developments will always be aspirational. There is a desperate need for more housing, and that housing also needs to be sold.
As a result, garden towns still carry out an important function in the housing market. They deliver a large number of homes and will forever be desirable to the public.
Of course, they are not the sole answer to the housing crisis. A diverse mix of new developments in a range of locations are required to cater to the differing needs of the population. However, garden towns can still provide a solution to a problem that impacts on us all, much like their original iteration.
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