Over one million new homes could be built over the next decade if each of the 353 councils in England built just one garden village of 3,000 new homes. This is the finding of a new report by think tank Policy Exchange which argues that a future government should devolve development powers to councils in order to kick start the building of new homes.

Under the proposals outlined by report author Lord Matthew Taylor, locally led development corporations, set by councils, would be charged with master-planning, setting quality design standards for the construction, and allocating some of the plots to self builders and housing associations, for a new wave of garden villages – part of the garden city movement initiated by Sir Ebenezer Howard.

Lord Taylor, who advised the last Labour government and the Coalition on planning policy, uses the report to highlight a number of problems with the current planning system.

He says that because current new development is based on building around existing communities, predominantly on green spaces at the edge of towns, locals are left with the thing they fear most: poor quality, badly designed and dense housing estates which, Lord Taylor says, increase congestion and trigger a ‘vicious circle’.
The report highlights how this has led to a situation where only 148,000 new homes a year were built between 1997 and 2007. Lord Taylor says the consequences of this can be seen in an inexorable rise in house prices relative to wages, making homeownership ever more unaffordable for many people.

Lord Taylor commented: “Over the next 20 years we need to build around 300,000 new homes every year to keep up with demand and address the existing backlog of housing need. The current planning system – based on tacking on homes to existing towns and villages – ramps up local opposition to new development and makes it politically challenging for councils to meet local housing need.”

“It is therefore vital that we turn the system on its head. Empowering councils to create new garden villages to meet local housing demand and capture all the land value uplift is critical if we are to win over the support of existing residents and build the homes we so desperately need,” he said.

Chris Walker, Head of Housing and Planning at Policy Exchange added: “It is little wonder that NIMBYism (Not In My Back Yard) has thrived in this country, given housing development today steps so crushingly on the toes of existing community residents. Building new homes through locally-created new garden villages moves us away from this failed model, which for a generation has failed to build enough homes.”

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