Garden Communities Programme Launched

The government is seeking well-designed, well-planned, locally led garden communities meeting housing needs to take the form of new Garden Cities (to deliver more than 10,000 homes) and Garden Villages (1,500-10,000 homes).  MHCLG has now launched its prospectus for achieving this vision, inviting bids from the public and private sector by 9 November 2018.

We want to see vibrant, mixed-use, communities where people can live, work, and play for generations to come – communities which view themselves as the conservation areas of the future… Successful proposals will demonstrate how they are hard-wiring these qualities in from the start, supported by long term legacy and stewardship arrangements.”

The Garden Communities Programme is expected to encourage public-private partnership working in its various forms and will receive government support in monetary and non-monetary form. This presents opportunities for not just those who put themselves forward to deliver such schemes but also creates several other tiers of market opportunities so it pays to be interested in the evolution of this purportedly visionary programme.

Each new scheme will be assessed upon a range of factors:

  • Scale – Garden Towns to be prioritised over Garden Villages. Transformational outcomes and mixed use desired.
  • Strategic fit – long-term housing and economic growth needs to fit in with wider strategies.
  • Local leadership – all schemes to be backed by the local authority including the county council in two tier areas
  • Garden Community Qualities – high quality place-making including integrated transport, green space, focus on wellbeing, future proofing with strong legacy and stewardship arrangements
  • Deliverability and Viability – outline of delivery models, infrastructure requirements, capture of land value and access to finance
  • Timescales – unsurprisingly early delivery and accelerated housing delivery is to be prioritised

Details for proposed funding aren’t entirely clear but seed capacity funding is one route which is intended to properly resource local authorities for delivery and Homes England capital investment and loans being another source of funding. Government support may also be provided in non-monetary forms such as brokerage support (without fettering government functions) and advice on delivery vehicles and pooling knowledge. The non-monetary support will be most beneficial to local government with the private sector and investors doubtless having their own agendas and experience of project delivery to bring to the table.

The proposals are of course contingent on the planning process which at this scale could prove difficult to navigate, not to mention the various other external factors to be considered. Proposals are also unlikely to go unchallenged with pressures on greenbelt mounting and concerns that the necessary supporting infrastructure far wider than the delivery of those towns and villages needs to be in place for successful delivery. Nonetheless, to hone in on one area of the country, such as the Cambridge-Milton Keynes-Oxford corridor where there is already a drive for 1 million homes to be delivered by 2050, a potentially exciting economic opportunity presents itself.

For further information, please contact Caroline Mostowfi, Partner in the Real Estate & Projects team.

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