Garden towns, Oxford/Cambridge, United Kingdom

Wednesday 7 Mar 2018
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Architects: WAN Editorial

Garden towns set to grow in ‘Arc of opportunity’

Thousands of new homes, an expressway road link and rail link are planned for the corridor between Oxford and Cambridge in the UK

Up to five new garden towns could be approved under UK Government's plans as it grapples with the country’s housing crisis. The planned settlements are set to be built in the ‘Oxbridge corridor’ between Oxford and Cambridge and would create thousands of homes.

Sajid Javid, the UK housing secretary, has announced he will give the greenlight to two new towns in the next few weeks and may push for up to three more.

It comes after funding was agreed for a high-speed rail line as well as an 'expressway' for cars between the two university towns which would almost halve journey times.

Commenting on the proposals Matthew Chamberlain, Director of Ayre Chamberlain Gaunt said:

“While the primary area for development should always be within our existing urban centres, the scale of the housing challenge we face requires bold interventions beyond this. The ‘brain belt’ is one measure; however, it’s success relies on exceptional new infrastructure and identifying where a ‘new’ town should be located over just expansion and sprawl of existing settlements. We must seize opportunities like this to rebalance scale and density, allowing character and community to come to the fore. Places to ‘be’, between Oxford and Cambridge, must be the result.”

Also commenting on the plans Jo McCafferty, Director at Levitt Bernstein said: “The Oxford-Cambridge corridor forms a ribbon to the north of London’s green belt and hosts some of the country’s most productive and fast growing towns, as well as leading universities, high tech firms and a highly skilled labour force. It is within this ‘Arc of Opportunity’ that the potentially five new Garden Towns have been identified to be developed. We believe they have real potential to help deliver significant new high quality housing, but Local Authorities will need funding and support to deliver the scale and quality of the proposal envisaged.”

Equally, the success of the new towns as sustainable new centres, critically relies on the delivery of comprehensive transport and social infrastructure. These all require sensitive upfront consideration to help unlock housing sites and improve land supply that will support the development of well-connected communities. It’s this larger scale, strategic planning that is required to avoid piecemeal development and ‘parcelisation’ that often incurs the wrath of local existing communities. It is imperative that any local community is fully engaged from the outset and at the heart of the development process. Crucially, whilst we fully support a focus on an increased supply of housing, meeting targets should never be to the detriment of design quality, and it is therefore critical that a genuine commitment to exemplary design is at the fore of the Garden Town debate.”

Sajid Javid told the Sunday Times: “Along that corridor there's an opportunity to build at least four or five garden towns and villages with thousands of homes. We have a housing crisis in this country. Average house prices in England are eight times average earnings.

'In London, where we have the most acute shortage, it is 15 times average earnings. That's not just the worst we have had in England , it's the worst of any major developed economy.”

The total number of homes built last year - 217,000 - was more than double the total for 2010 but well short of the UK government’s target of 300,000 a year by 2025.

Nick Myall

News editor

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