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Garden Cities Resurrected
Government initiative to develop three garden cities by 2020

Garden cities are once again being promoted as a remedy to Britain’s ongoing housing shortage

Harlow New Town Masterplan
Amber Roberts / CC BY
Harlow New Town Masterplan
Politicians in England are discussing the potential of building new residential areas using the Garden Cities model to ‘deliver better homes, gardens, infrastructure, schools, hospitals, public spaces, jobs and economic growth’ (Lord Wolfson 2014). 

The concept of garden cities was first realised in Britain at Letchworth and Welwyn by Ebenezer Howard in the early 20th century. Howard’s garden cities sought to balance the positive aspects of both urban and rural life as a reaction to the overcrowding and pollution of industrialised cities. 

Howard’s Garden Cities also acted as a precedent for the British New Towns movement, which saw the creation of 21 towns over three phases running from 1946-1950, 1961-64, 1967-70. The new towns developed during these periods built upon the spatial ideas published in ‘Garden Cities of Tomorrow: A Peaceful Path to Reform’ yet did not encompass Howard’s radical political ideas. This latest wave of Garden Cities is again set to use the spatial concepts of the model, while it seems the politicians involved are unaware of the anti-government sentiment that underlaid Howard’s original ideas. Katy Lock of the Town and Country Planning Association stated ‘The principles of collective land ownership, long-term stewardship and land value capture for the benefit of the community couldn't be more relevant now…but it requires strong political leadership. Development in this country is led by short-term local politics and dominated by volume house-builders, whereas garden cities don't begin to pay back until 20 or 30 years later." 

There have been government initiatives to resurrect a spatial strain of the Garden Cities model in 1996, 2007 and 2012, yet only 150 houses have been built. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has unveiled the latest strategy to develop three Garden Cities in England by 2020.

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21. Aug 2014
Reported by Amber Roberts, St Helens


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