Making it happen: a New Towns Act for 2015

Leading housing and planning charity, the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) has  published a landmark document into how the UK can deliver the beautiful, inclusive and sustainable communities of the future. The report,New Town Act 2015, has taken the phenomenally successful New Town Development Corporation model, that delivered 32 new towns after the Second World War and which now home over 2 million people, and updated it for the 21st Century.

There is clear consensus that England is suffering from a major housing crisis. Building a few new houses here and there is not going to be enough – we need to create comprehensively planned, large scale developments. This is why the TCPA has been leading a re-invigorated campaign for a new generation of garden cities as part of the solution and has published this historic report, which demonstrates how the nation can rediscover its bold and visionary history in creating beautiful new places with affordable homes and where people wish to live and work.

Dr Hugh Ellis, TCPA Head of Policy, said:

“Over the last two years the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and the Leader of the Labour Party have all articulated their support for a new generation of garden cities as part of the solution to the nation’s housing crisis. However, the question of how to deliver high quality and comprehensively planned new communities, which can take over 30 years to deliver and transcend electoral cycles, has not yet been addressed.”

“This why the TCPA wants to show how the development corporation model, which was extraordinarily successful in delivering homes and communities after the second world war, can be updated to make it more democratically accountable and ensure that the vision of high quality, beautiful and inclusive places is achieved. The trick will be to take the world famous and successful garden city principles, which created places like Letchworth and Welwyn Garden City, and place them at the heart of the staggeringly successful development corporation delivery model.”

The objective of ‘New Towns Act 2015?’ is to identify the major issues which a future government would need to address in order to make the New Towns legislation fit for purpose. It is intended to provoke a positive debate about the best way to secure high-quality housing growth based on the success of the British New Towns. While there is inevitably a degree of complexity surrounding the law which underpins the delivery of new communities, the key messages of this document are clear:

  • New settlements are a vital component of our response to the housing crisis, allowing for cost-effective and sustainable growth.
  • The New Towns Act offers a powerful foundation for the delivery of the kinds of high-quality inclusive places that will meet our housing needs in the long term.
  • This foundation is based on a specific approach to the designation of land and the creation of New Town Development Corporations to drive effective delivery.
  • The basic architecture of the New Towns legislation remains in force and could, in principle, be used tomorrow.

However, this document also concludes that the current legislation is in need of modernisation to ensure that Development Corporations have the visionary purpose and obligations to balance their extensive powers. These changes would include:

  • the creation of transparent legal objectives for Development Corporations, including sustainable development, climate change and social inclusion;
  • enhanced requirements for participation by the public in the design and delivery of the New Town;
  • ensuring partnership working with the established local authorities in the area in which the New Town is located; and ensuring the timely handover of the New Town’s assets (i.e. land, property, finance) to the local authorities and to other successor bodies to hold and manage those assets in perpetuity for the benefit of the community.

In addition to the modernisation of the law, the development of New Towns would require important policy support and a detailed financial model, both of which the TCPA is currently developing. Significant policy challenges remain, primarily around the balance between centrally designated New Town sites and local consensus.

Dr Hugh Ellis added:

“Given the scale of the housing crisis we cannot meet our current and future housing needs on a plot by plot basis. This is why in the run up to the 2015 election the TCPA will be calling for all three major political parties to make a manifesto commitment to delivering beautiful, well designed and inclusive new communities; with affordable homes and new jobs in places people wish to live and work. We need brave political leadership and we hope that this report, ‘New Town Act 2015?’, will help show central and local government how a step change in delivery can be achieved, working in partnership with the private sector, without losing focus on people and quality.”

This report has been kindly supported by the Lady Margaret Paterson Osborn Trust and Dentons and is being launched in Parliament with the Rt Hon Nick Raynsford MP.

From TCPA Media Library

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