Simon Wolfson: How we can make our new garden cities grow
Comment of the Day

December 07 2012

Commentary by David Fuller

Simon Wolfson: How we can make our new garden cities grow

This is an enlightened column by Simon Wolfson for The Times (London) (subscription required, PDF also supplied). Here is the opening:
Building New Bedford and New Bicester will pull jobs and growth north of London

The UK has about 60 million acres of land, 91 per cent of it undeveloped. Nick Boles, the Planning Minister, has proposed building homes on a further 2-3 per cent of that land.

Mr Boles, a Conservative, and Nick Clegg are both in favour of creating new garden cities. The case for these projects is overwhelming. Four cities, of only 20,000 acres each, could comfortably deliver more than 200,000 new homes, add more than £60 billion to our economy and create tens of thousands of new jobs. So, Mr Boles, 2-3 per cent may well be more than is actually required.

New garden cities are an economically viable, aesthetically pleasing alternative to cramming even more houses into existing urban cordons. All too often this results in dense estates of box-like homes, the loss of urban parkland, and stretches local infrastructure to breaking point. In place of destructive, piecemeal development, new cities offer the chance to build proper homes, with landmark architecture and planned transport and services. Sites can be limited to agro-industrial land of limited environmental merit so that the best countryside is better protected.

New cities would harness the incredible economic power of pent-up demand for housing. One acre of agricultural land in South East England is worth about £10,000; the same land with planning permission has a value approaching £1,000,000. Harnessing this gain would not only allow new cities to be beautiful, properly built places, but also to be privately funded, avoiding additional strain on the national debt.

David Fuller's view The expansion of homes, let alone cities can be a touchy subject, not least for those who feel they will be adversely affected. Nevertheless, there are many more winners and Simon Wolfson provides an inspired and sensible solution to the challenge of accommodating rising populations, which the UK and many other countries are experiencing. It should also be good for economies in the UK and other nations with similar circumstances.

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