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Rogers renews attack on garden city plans

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Richard Rogers has renewed his attack on plans to build new garden cities across England, calling the proposals a ‘return to the mistakes of the past’.

The prominent architect has thrown his weight behind a new report by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) and the University of West of England (UWE) which states that up to one million new homes could be built on existing brownfield land.

In the report Rogers accused politicians of paying ‘lip service’ to the idea that brownfield sites should be developed first and criticised the garden city concept as an unnecessary encroachment on greenfield sites.

Rogers has previously hit out at garden city plans having first reacted to the winning proposals for the 2014 Wolfson Economics Prize, which was picked up by Manchester-based masterplanner URBED for olans to build as many as 40 new garden cities in England.

In the foreword to the new document, titled From Wasted Space to Living Spaces Rogers said: ‘Politicians of all stripes have been talking about new towns and garden cities, threatening a return to the mistakes of the past; ‘new town blues’ in lifeless dormitories, hollowing out of our towns and cities, and unnecessary encroachment on green field sites.

‘In comparison, retrofitting existing cities is both socially effective and energy efficient.’

The comments by Rogers’ come as the government and opposition look for new initiatives to increase the number of new homes across England. In March, chancellor George Osborne announced plans to create a 15,000-home ‘Garden City’ at Ebbsfleet in Kent - the first to be built in the United Kingdom in 100 years - with up to £200million of public money pumped into the scheme.

The report states that Local Authorities across England have identified enough brownfield land for up to 1 million extra homes. CPRE and the UWE estimate that 976,000 homes could be built on existing brownfield sites, with up to 400,000 homes already granted either full or outline planning permission.

CPRE state that unused or derelict land could accommodate an additional 550,000 homes, with nearly half of the vacant space is located in the south east, the east of England and London.

The report made a number of suggestions on how Local Authorities could accommodate extra housing within existing space such as building over car parks.

Rogers added: ‘As this timely report shows, there is no urgent need to sprawl onto greenfield sites. We still have capacity for more than one million homes on brownfield sites, and some estimates suggest that total capacity could be 1.5 million homes – as high as it was in 2009, when the last full survey was published.

There is no urgent need to sprawl onto greenfield sites

‘In many places new sites have emerged as fast as previously identified sites are developed.’

Housing and Planning Minister Brandon Lewis said: ‘We welcome this report, which illustrates the scope for building new homes and protecting the countryside at the same time. 

“This government wants to see the maximum amount of brownfield land being used to build new homes, whilst also maintaining protections for our beautiful countryside.’

Paul Miner, planning campaign manager at the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), said: This research demonstrates the huge existing capacity for housing on brownfield land. At a time when there is great pressure on our green spaces, utilising this land through a brownfield first policy would protect our countryside and regenerate urban areas.

‘We want this new, authoritative evidence to lead to a sustained focus on suitable brownfield land. We can and must do more to get these sites redeveloped, whether it be reviving the National Land Use Database or implementing strong local plans to deal with multiple landowners on difficult sites.’

UWE conducted its analysis with data collected from a survey of local planning authorities. Before 2010 local authorities submitted data on available land to the NLUD, which consequently provided a national picture of brownfield land available for housing.

Planning data from the 82 local authorities that provided figures for 2011 and 2012 indicate that in the period 2010-2012 the total amount of suitable brownfield land actually increased by 67 hectares despite 1658 hectares being redeveloped. 

The report can be found on the CPRE website.

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Readers' comments (3)

  • Richard Rogers this time is right. Protect the English countryside!

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  • Illustrations credited to URBED but no mention of their proposal in the text. Shurely shome mishtake!

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  • Richard Rogers is absolutly correct , I live in Dublin which expanded out into the countryside resulting in Ghost Towns , long commuting , resulting in enviromental pollution , human stress and misery , while the city is full of brownfield sites , I am afraid politicians and planners alike simply do not understand ordinary common sense !!

    John Meagher FRIAI RIBA

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