Homes sweet homes

Will RogersUncategorised

Garden city principles standing the test of time

It’s a good time to be a chocolate lover: Christmas indulgence behind us, sweet and costly Valentines Day gestures, and an imminent Easter Sunday.

So what better time to look at how the most famous British chocolate manufacturer helped steer town planning in a new direction, at a time when decision makers and think-tanks are boosting the profile of the momentous garden city movement.

Factory in a garden

As a response to overcrowding and squalid living conditions in cities following the Industrial Revolution, brothers George and Richard Cadbury moved their factory from crowded and murky Birmingham to the clean and spacious setting of Bournville in 1879.

George Cadbury knew that for his model village of Bournville to thrive, it needed more than just his chocolate factory and homes for the workers. Passionate about providing areas for people to enjoy, gardens, recreation grounds and parks were an essential ingredient in the development of the village (and according to Cadbury, gardening would keep the worker with his family and out of the pub!)

This original garden city movement paved the (Milky) Way for towns such as Letchworth. It spawned the New Towns movement and the 1946 New Towns Act, which was responsible for Milton Keynes, Harlow, Basildon and others.

Sticking with an old recipe

Developments such as Letchworth and Bournville laid the seeds of a vision to reintroduce the benefits of nature into an urban environment. Over a century on, permutations of this concept are hitting the headlines once again.

While the Chancellor pushes ahead with £200 million plans to develop a new garden city at Ebbsfleet, right-wing think-tank Policy Exchange has called for each of the 353 Councils in England to build one garden village of 3,000 new houses – equating to over one million homes over the next decade.

Under the proposal, locally-led development corporations, set up 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.

The new settlement in Kent has been designed with garden city principles at its heart. Like Bournville and Letchworth, Ebbsfleet is well served by infrastructure, with horse buses and tramways having been swapped with a high-speed rail line. Situated in the south east of England, where a lot of the housing pressure has been, not only is the site mostly brownfield, but there’s already outline permission for 10,000 new homes. In terms of job creation, Bluewater shopping centre and Paramount’s planned £2bn attraction are within easy commuting distance.

A delicious mixture

‘Wispas’ of a new era of garden city developments remind us that whatever comes of Ebbsfleet, Cadbury’s vision of Bournville is just as relevant over 100 years on. Given the success of Bournville, which still stands proud today, perhaps it is no surprise that current developers want a taste of the action.

Will Rogers