Research into the Government initiative centred on Garden Communities has revealed that since 2014 49 projects have been announced which could deliver 400,000 new homes

The research by Lichfields, titled ‘How does your garden grow? A stock take on planning for the Government’s Garden Communities programme’, has revealed that of the 49 projects set forward since 2014 only 3% of them have been completed.

Lichfields reports that Garden Communities are set to provide a total of 403,000 homes, up to 180 new primary schools, 56 secondary schools, and 600 hectares of employment land.

The research states it may take five more years before the programme gathers the momentum to make a significant contribution to the government target of 300,000 new homes a year.

With just 3% of homes completed, so far, and only a third enshrined in adopted local plans or with outline permission, the report from Lichfields outlines the delivery progress and characteristics of these new villages, towns and cities.

Research results

Lichfields finds that for around two-thirds of the homes in the programme, there remains some planning uncertainty over the principle or scale of contribution arising from their development – slightly more than a third (35%) are identified in emerging plans that are subject to independent examination, and 30% are being promoted, but currently have no formal planning status.

Lichfields senior director, Matthew Spry, commented: “The scale of the programme is undoubtedly ambitious, and it has progressed further than some ill-fated predecessors – such as ‘new country towns’ and ‘Eco Towns’.

“Across the 49 projects, there is a genuine commitment among landowners, developers and local authorities to bring forward fantastic new places for people to live, work and play

“While the Garden Communities are unlikely to deliver the lion’s share of their housing allocations until the mid-2020s, they could be delivering 16,000 dwellings a year by the 2030s making a significant contribution to meeting housing need.”

Lichfields research warns that for many councils they are likely to rely heavily on a Garden Community to help them achieve Local Plan housing objectives increasing the pressure on them to deliver in practice. Providing certainty and support will be vital in order deliver the homes that are required.

Spry added: “Local Plans in many areas are heavily reliant on Garden Communities to meet their housing requirements: on average, one-third of Local Plan targets depend on Garden Communities, but in some cases this is as high as two-thirds.

“This means progress in meeting need is subject to the uncertainty associated with Local Plans, and Planning Inspectors in some places casting doubt over the principle and/or feasibility of some projects.

“In these circumstances, any failure or slow-down in delivery will leave those areas vulnerable to planning by appeal.

“Garden Communities often require infrastructure to be provided early in the development which can impact on viability and their call on Government funding in shown by the £1.35bn of Housing Infrastructure Fund devoted to areas with these projects.

“The National Planning Policy Framework places much more emphasis on the deliverability and viability of plans, and those promoting Garden Community projects need to ensure they can accompany a positive vision for a new community with robust evidence that it can carry the burden of delivery expectation placed upon it.”

Analysis of Garden Communities

Lichfields analysis shows that 22 of 49 garden communities are standalone settlements, eight are new settlements linked to nearby towns, and the remaining 19 are urban extensions, such as this in Basingstoke, Bicester, Taunton and Wellingborough.

The standalone projects accounted for approximately one-third of homes in the programme (35%), the linked new settlements another third (32%), and the urban extensions the final third (33%).

Key findings at a glance:

  • Approximately 82,000 homes in Garden Communities currently have at least outline planning permission, a further 18,000 homes have submitted outline applications, bringing the total to 100,000 homes in the pipeline.
  • Garden Communities have so far delivered approximately 14,000 completions up to April 2019, with the vast majority of these within Garden Towns as opposed to Garden Villages.
  • Where Garden Communities have already begun to deliver, they have typically comprised extensions to existing settlements, namely; Bicester, Aylesbury and Didcot.
  • Based on a high-level trajectory of delivery across the programme, of the 403,000 homes, just 35,000 are likely to be built by 2024.
  • The peak period for housebuilding will likely be 2030-2034 when 16,000 homes are projected to be built each year (circa 5% of the national ambition for 300,000).
  • The new Garden Communities will support 1.3 million additional jobs over their construction period to 2050, and generate a combined local economic value through its build out of £87bn.

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