An overview of garden cities for local authority officers, landowners, developers and planning consultants. We look at what garden cities are, the key principles and the legal considerations. 

A garden city is defined as ‘a town designed for industry and healthy living; of a size that makes possible a full measure of social life, but not larger; surrounded by a permanent belt of rural land; the whole of the land being in public ownership or held in trust for the community’.

Garden villages have been defined as smaller projects of between 1,500 – 10,000 homes and garden towns over 10,000 homes.

Garden city principles

The principles of a garden city include:

  • strong vision, leadership and community engagement
  • land value capture for the benefit of the community
  • community ownership of land
  • mixed-tenure homes and housing types that are affordable
  • employment opportunities, green space, strong leisure and retail facilities and integrated and accessible transport system.

Why is the government promoting garden cities?

The government sees the delivery of garden villages, towns and cities as a means of tackling the housing shortage. In 2017, the government allocated funding to 10 garden towns and 14 garden villages across England to help fast track those projects.

What national policy supports garden cities?

The National Planning Policy Framework highlights that new settlements can sometimes be best achieved by planning for those that follow the principles of garden cities.

What issues arise in relation to garden cities?

From a legal perspective, there are a number of issues to consider. These include:

  1. site selection (including land assembly and compulsory purchase)
  2. community involvement
  3. funding infrastructure (community infrastructure levy, s106 agreements, borrowing against future New Homes Bonus receipts and Tax Increment Financing – borrowing against increased business rate revenues)
  4. green belt protection
  5. constraints such as town and village greens and heritage assets and viability.