Housing minister Gavin Barwell has welcomed in the new year with a promise to resurrect garden villages and towns for the 21st century, but has left the definition of these new and potentially controversial settlements largely open
The programme, which comes two years after previous incumbent Brandon Lewis said new towns would create ‘resentment’ and ‘urban sprawl’, will deliver 200,000 new homes in 14 garden villages and three garden towns across the country.
A £7.4 million capacity fund will support the masterplanning and early preparation of the new settlements, which were selected following expressions of interest made by local authorities last summer.
The Department for Communities and Local Government was unable to confirm how design services would be procured but said settlements would be ‘locally led’ without imposed development principles.
While it’s unlikely they will owe much to the visionary architect Ebenezer Howard, who set out plans for self-sufficient garden cities ringed by agricultural belts in 1898, they will be required to deliver high-quality housing and well integrated green spaces, and could face significant local opposition in the shires.
So now could be a good time to reach out to local developer and council contacts and offer some fresh ideas as they set out on the challenging path of making these miniature retro-utopias a reality. A call for additional garden village proposals may also be put forward later this year.
Meanwhile over at Durham University a radically different Brutalist vision of the future, Dunelm House, has been approved for demolition after the culture secretary rejected Historic England’s advice that it be listed. The university is promising to launch an international competition for its replacement soon.
The students union building occupies a dramatic sloping site within Durham’s UNESCO World Heritage zone next to Ove Arup’s Grade I-listed Kingsgate Bridge. So it’s well worth visiting now if you’re a fan of the oeuvre or are considering competing.