Workshop three on garden cities and urban extensions

Garden cities and urban extensions: Workshop 3 blog entry

If some land in the existing Metropolitan Green Belt were to be developed one option would be to follow a garden city model. Garden cities are very much linked to the concept of green belt. Ebenezer Howard, in his book Garden Cities of To-morrow, described a green belt that would provide productive spaces and would also maintain separation between garden cities. As well as providing a familiar and visually acceptable form of development the garden city model also provides an economic model which we will pick up on later in the project.

Most of you would probably know this diagram:


But what is a garden city? The TCPA, founded by Ebenezer Howard, gives this definition “A Garden City is a holistically planned new settlement which enhances the natural environment and offers high-quality affordable housing and locally accessible work in beautiful, healthy and sociable communities.” In practice, the difference between a garden city and an urban extension is ambiguous. Nevertheless, we can identify elements that contribute to successful developments.

The TCPA have looked at Best Practice in Urban Extensions and New Settlements. Some of these include the urban extensions, garden cities and new towns that currently exist, or are being built, around London. These include a new development at Wixam in Bedfordshire and South Woodham Ferrers. The TCPA identified seven factors for successful outcomes:


  1. The need for regional and sub-regional planning rather than national specification
  2. Twenty-year time horizons
  3. The linked new settlement
  4. The need for comprehensive land assembly
  5. The need for a specialised team
  6. The need for consensus
  7. The need for upfront investment


New developments 

In the workshop Nicholas Falk, co-funder of URBED, outlined six principles:

1. Urban priority: build at least 60% of homes in urban areas

2. Green field resource: plan positively for elsewhere

3. Positive planning: link development with infrastructure

4. Sustainable development: major schemes should produce environmental benefits

5. Funding: ‘land value uplift’ should support local infrastructure eg community trusts

6. Tools for the job: we should learn from other countries 

He gave example of proposals for Oxford where emphasis was placed on the benefits of development including better public transport. This led to a discussion of financing including the possibilities of bonds and the potential for ongoing revenue through, for example, park and ride schemes. One lesson from the past is the need for an agreement to value green belt land at agricultural values and to be able to draw down land when required. This is a prerequisite for capturing uplift once infrastructure has been put in place. This and other possibilities, such as Community Land Trusts, could make development in the Metropolitan Green Belt more acceptable.