Careers advice: planning for garden towns, cities and villages

Written by: Jez Abbott
Published on: 20 Jan 2017

Duncan MackayIn early January 2017 the Department for Communities and Local Government announced funding for 14 new garden villages across England with the intention of delivering up to 48,000 new homes.

Garden Communities are a preferred method for delivering on the government’s commitment to build one million new homes by 2020. It is implicit in policy statements to date that government sees a large proportion of these garden communities being locally led. 

So, how are planners to respond to this challenge and ensure enough high-quality homes are built?

This is not easy, given the Locally Led Garden Villages, Towns and Cities prospectus published last March insisted: “We do not consider there is a single template for a garden village, town or city” or that “we do not want to impose a set of development principles on local areas”.

Clearly, the emphasis on local leadership is key, successful garden villages and towns will be locally led, with local authorities working with the Homes and Communities Agency to bring settlements forward. 

The scale of development proposed will require professionals to produce coherent masterplanning over large areas and a scale of development that will exceed typical local plan allocations.

Planners will also need to go back to first principles and plan for sustainable communities from the ground. This will more likely succeed where planners – as well as politicians - adopt a long-term approach to place making, supported by, but not dependent on the process of preparing local plans.

From my experience, a long-term approach is most effective for ensuring successful place making for communities in excess of 5,000 dwellings. 

Planners will need to act as facilitators, bringing together private and public landowners, with communities and local politicians to gradually allow garden communities to take shape.

Duncan Mackay is a planning associate at multidisciplinary practice BDP