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Budget: Chancellor to pump £200m into Ebbsfleet 'Garden City'

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George Osborne has announced plans to create a 15,000-home ‘Garden City’ at Ebbsfleet in Kent

Up to £200 million of public investment will be pumped into the brownfield area around Ebbsfleet high speed rail station which has been earmarked for a new town for more than a decade.

The chancellor – speaking ahead of Wednesday’s budget – suggested the latest development focussing on Eastern Quarry, Ebbsfleet station and Swanscombe peninsula would be the first ‘Garden City’ to be built in the United Kingdom in 100 years.

He also announced the opening of a new Garden City development corporation to drive the creation of ‘spacious, attractive, high quality places to live’ in the area modelled on garden cities like Letchworth or Welwyn Garden City.

In addition Osborne confirmed that the government’s Help-to-Buy scheme would be extended up until 2020, helping to create ‘up to’ 120,000 new homes.

Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Osborne said: ‘If you look at Letchworth, Welwyn Garden City, Milton Keynes – our predecessors had the ambition to build for Britain. I want to extend the Help-to-Buy scheme for newly built houses.

He continued: ‘We are also for the first time in 100 years going to build a garden city in Ebbsfleet in the Thames Estuary. This means more homes, this means more aspiration for families. Britain has got to get building.’

The chancellor believes Ebbsfleet is the right place for a ‘Garden City’ because it has ‘fantastic infrastructure’ and local communities and MPs who support new development.

Around 25 miles from London, Ebbsfleet is connected to the M25, M20, M2 and A2 and is a stone’s throw from Eric Kuhne’s Blue Water shopping centre. The high speed rail station includes international train services.

Two years ago Land Securities and three local Kent Councils agreed plans for 22,600 new homes in the area. Barton Willmore masterplanned some 6,250 dwellings and 231,000m² of commercial, retail, leisure and community floorspace for the developer.

Despite longstanding interest in the area’s development potential however it is understood only 150 new homes have so far been created.

Commmenting on the announcement TCPA head of policy Hugh Ellis, said: There are huge opportunities to embed the Garden City principles in existing “stuck” sites such as Ebbsfleet.  We look forward to learning the details of the proposals to see how the principles of community land ownership, long-term stewardship and land value capture for the benefit of the community will be embedded into the delivery of a beautiful, sustainable and viable new community.  
‘Given the scale of the housing crisis we cannot meet our current and future housing needs on a plot by plot basis and garden cities are an important part of the solution. This is why in the run up to the 2015 election the TCPA will be calling for all three major political parties to make a manifesto commitment to delivering beautiful, well designed and inclusive new communities; with affordable homes and new jobs in places people wish to live and work.’

Conservative peer Simon Wolfson - who will award this year’s £250,000 Wolfson Prize to a 10,000-word essay on how to build new Garden Cities - added: ‘I am delighted to hear that the government is getting behind new Garden Cities.  I hope that this is the first step towards a more positive and optimistic approach to building the homes Britain so desperately needs.’

Ebenezer Howard set out plans for self-sufficient Garden Cities ringed by agricultural belts in 1898. Twenty-seven new towns were built in the UK in the post-war era following the success of England’s pioneering Letchworth and Welwyn garden cities.



Previous story (AJ 13.01.2014)

‘70,000 homes planned’ amid new garden cities push

The government has been accused of suppressing a report outlining plans for new garden cities, while pushing ahead with plans for 70,000 new ‘garden city’-style homes

Figures contained in a parliamentary answer by housing minister Kris Hopkins suggests it has plans for tens of thousands of new homes in the south of England, despite the government allegedly having cold feet over new garden cities – reported The Daily Telegraph.

The revelation comes shortly after senior Liberal Democrat’s accused the Conservative prime minister David Cameron of blocking the publication of plans for two new garden cities in Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire.

Speaking to the same newspaper last week, Liberal Democrat party president Tim Farron said: ‘This report needs to come out now and come out quickly. The Tories are displaying a Nimby attitude towards garden cities.’  

Liberal Democrat deputy prime minister Nick Clegg vowed to resurrect the ‘proud tradition’ of Britain’s garden cities movement in a bid to boost UK housebuilding two years ago. But leading Tories are said to be nervous about announcing new homes in the Conservative heartlands .

Hopkins answered a question from Labour’s shadow housing minister Emma Reynolds about the garden cities prospectus on 25 November.

Speaking in the House of Commons, he said: ‘To date, our large sites programme has provided total investment now of over £82.7 million of recoverable capital funding and nearly £6 million of capacity funding to bring forward up to 69,000 new homes.’

He continued: ‘We are supporting local ambitions for locally-led new communities that incorporate high quality and design standards, including garden city principles. We have provided support for the development of new communities such as:

  • ‘Cranbrook near Exeter, where we have invested over £20 million to create up to 6,300 homes and 1,500 jobs;
  • ‘Wokingham, where we have invested over £25 million to enable the development of up to 2,500 new homes and a Science and Innovation Park;
  • ‘Sherford, where our investment of over £32 million will accelerate up to 5,500 homes and approximately 5,000 new jobs;
  • ‘Ebbsfleet, where DCLG, DFT and the Highways Agency worked in close collaboration with local authorities and developers to find solutions to transport issues at eastern Quarry, helping to bring forward a site with wider potential for up to 22,000 homes.

Twenty-seven new towns were built in the UK in the post-war era following the success of England’s pioneering Letchworth and Welwyn garden cities.

Housing minister Kris Hopkins said: ‘As promised in the coalition agreement, this Government has scrapped top-down Whitehall planning, included ending the last Administration’s failed so-called eco-towns programme which built nothing but resentment. Instead, this Government is committed to working with local communities to build more homes and promote sustainable development.

‘This includes providing finance for those large scale housing projects that are locally-supported and have the full backing of the community.’

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