Do New Towns hold the key to creating communities today?

TCPA launch major research study into Garden Cities and New Towns programme

15 September 2015

The Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) has called on the Government to learn from the Garden Cities and post-war New Towns programme. The Association is recommending that Government adopt a local authority-led process to designate new Garden Cities as we strive to address the housing crisis and create the new communities the country desperately needs.

In a newly published report New Towns and Garden Cities: Lessons for Delivering a New Generation of Garden Cities’, the TCPA explores many common assumptions about the Garden Cities and New Towns programme, including the misconception that it was a top-down state-led imitative which imposed large built-up areas on communities that did not want them.

The report highlights that rather than being a strain on the public purse, the New Towns programme proved profitable for HM Treasury, and continues to provide income for the Government today. 

Kate Henderson, TCPA Chief Executive said:

“Both the Garden Cities and the post-war New Towns were visionary experiments in finding a better way to live and are today part of an evolving story of urbanism across the UK from which we still have a lot to learn.”

“With Garden Cities firmly on the political agenda it is important to learn the lessons – good and bad – from what has been done beforeCreating new communities is complicated and we need to have the right tools for the job. We also need long-term political leadership and commitment to good place-making that transcends political cycles.”

“We believe that new Garden Cities should combine the very high social and environmental standards of Gardens Cities with the highly effective delivery mechanisms of the post-war New Towns, incorporating the best of both approaches and learning the lessons of what has worked in the past and what has not.”

The report was launched at the TCPA conference ‘New Towns – past, present, future’, held today in London.  It includes a number of key recommendations in areas such paying for and encouraging support for new Garden Cities. It stresses the need for the existing New Towns legislation to be updated to provide the necessary mechanisms to deliver high quality Garden Cities the nation deserves in the timescale that it needs them. 

 Born from the need to rebuild a post-war Britain, the New Towns programme began in 1946, and sought to create a number of large scale new communities, and meet housing need.  Between 1946, and 1970, the programme created 32 New Towns across Britain, which are home to over 2.8 million people today. 

Katy Lock, TCPA Garden Cities and New Towns Expert and Advocate added:

“The New Towns programme was the most ambitious large scale town building programme ever undertaken in the UK.  Not only did the initiative provide high-quality housing in well-designed communities as part of a wider public programme it also addressed wider issues such as public health and social justice, creating socially balanced communities that integrated employment, homes and social life to provide opportunities for all.  In the face of the current housing crisis, we must again seek to produce homes on this scale.  By exploring what worked well and what didn’t, we can learn from our mistakes as we strive to create the innovative, high quality new communities that our nation so desperately needs.”

The ‘New Towns & Garden Cities: Lessons for Tomorrow’ project is sponsored by David Lock Associates, the Lady Margaret Patterson Osborn Trust and the Planning Exchange Foundation.