Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg has called on the government to put aside party politics and create a new wave of garden cities in the south of England
The Liberal Democrat leader warned the housing crisis had been allowed to damage the economy because politicians on all sides believed it was ‘too difficult or electorally unpopular’ to create new towns.
He said the government should now be ‘honest and upfront’ and publish its Garden Cities investment prospectus which is understood to focus on two new Garden Cities at Yalding near Maidstone in Kent and Gerrards Cross in Buckinghamshire.
The deputy prime minister’s comments – published in The Daily Telegraph – come shortly after leading liberal democrats accused the prime minister David Cameron of suppressing the prospectus on political grounds.
Opposition to garden cities is understood to be based on fears new affordable housing could dilute and alienate Conservative support in rural areas.
However Clegg said developing garden cities with local support and private sector backing would protect the countryside and avoid the further expansion of ‘bloated towns’ and development on green belt land.
He said: ‘There is an arc around the South East of England where demand is past breaking point. The current situation is bad for the economy and places a massive strain on vital services.
He continued: ‘If we put aside partisan politics and think collectively about the housing needs of the next generation, we could set Britain on track for a major wave of new development, new jobs, and new hope.’
In response, communities secretary Eric Pickles denied his department had drawn up any prospectus but admitted the government could build ‘a garden city or two’ where there was local support.
Speaking on Sky News’s Murnaghan programme he said: ‘I think we could probably produce garden settlements, we could produce a garden city or two - provided it is in places where people want it and there are authorities expressing an interest.
We could produce a garden city or two
He continued: ‘It is important to set up settlements where there is going to be some infrastructure there, where there is going to be roads and the like.
‘But it has to be on the basis of consent. After all, Labour promised five garden cities and produced none and when that failed to arrive they promised 10. All that happened with that policy was building resentment, not a single dwelling.’