A guide to garden towns and villages

In this article, we investigate: 

  • What is a garden town, village, or city?
  • Government plans to encourage garden communities
  • Where garden towns and villages are being built
  • The current availability and prices
  • Criticism of new garden towns

Dive in to find out more!

An eco-home with an extensive array of solar panels.

What is a garden town, village, or city?

A garden town is: “a holistically planned new settlement, which enhances the natural environment and offers high-quality affordable housing and locally accessible work in beautiful, healthy and sociable communities,” according to the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA), which aims to inspire the creation of self-sustaining new housing developments in rural England.

In 1899, the Garden City Association was set up to deliver high-quality housing and healthy environments and the TCPA continues this work, based on modern Garden City Principles, influencing government, legislation, and guiding councils. Early garden developments included Letchworth Garden City and Welwyn Garden City and later the TACP helped guide the British New Towns movement.

Garden City Principles include:

  • Capturing the land value for the benefit of the community
  • Community ownership of land and long-term stewardship of assets
  • Mixed tenure homes and affordable housing
  • A range of accessible jobs within an easy commute
  • Community engagement
  • Beautifully designed homes with gardens and opportunities to grow food
  • Development that enhances the natural environment, offers biodiversity net gains, and uses zero-carbon technology
  • Recreation and shopping opportunities within walkable distance
  • Accessible transport systems with a focus on walking, cycling, and public transport

The TCPA’s priorities are to:

  • Secure good homes for everyone in thriving communities
  • Ensure that good quality housing developments are built on green town design principles, in the right places – alongside jobs, local services, healthcare, and education
  • Promote genuine local consent, giving people the power to influence decisions about their environment and create fairness between communities
  • See new and existing places changed to be adaptable to current and future challenges, such as climate change
  • Make health a priority in planning and help decision-makers understand the links between planning and health
  • Reduce car dependency and promote sustainable transport
Electric car charger points are standard on garden town developments.

Government plans to encourage garden towns and villages

Covid-19 changed the way we view our homes, workplaces, and green areas, and new garden towns offer the chance to build homes suited to the way we want to live now. Lessons have been learned from previous garden towns and cities, and now beauty and nature are being placed at the heart of design.

Mandatory design codes are being introduced to make developers use styles favoured locally. Sustainable and attractive communities with high design standards will put themselves in a strong position to bid for central government support.

In May 2022, the government announced a £ 15 million funding package to support the delivery of thousands of new homes in green garden initiatives across England. This takes the total funding for the Garden Communities Programme to over £69 million, and the government aims to build up to 16,000 homes each year from 2025.

The Garden Communities programme aims to reinvigorate 43 towns and villages in England and most of the homes will be built in the north, midlands and southwest. The government has stated that the programme will deliver 300,000 homes, 90,000 of which will be affordable.

The initiative is part of the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill agenda, and priorities include regenerating underused sites and building beautiful homes in green areas. Other objectives include creating up to 200,000 jobs and boosting local economies by building shops, schools and workplaces in the garden communities.

The government funding underlines its efforts to alleviate the housing crisis and get new communities built in rural England with genuine local consent. Such development is in line with government key principles of promoting high-quality housing locally, preventing urban sprawl and supporting green spaces as it tackles climate change.

Green communities across the country

When the (then) housing minister Stuart Andrew announced the measures in May, he said:

Building beautiful new homes in the places they are most needed lies at the heart of the government’s levelling-up mission. Garden villages and towns are perfect examples of the vibrant, green communities we want to see right across the country and today’s funding will allow us to work hand in hand with local leaders and industry to deliver the high-quality new homes that we need.

The Garden Communities programme supports long-term housing projects’ progress from their earliest stages, with the government working with local leaders and industry. Through the programme, local authorities can recruit specialist staff, obtain the necessary planning requirements and get advice from Homes England, the government’s housing agency.

Peter Freeman, chair of Homes England, commented:

Working collaboratively and supporting locally-led ambitions to deliver well-designed and great-quality new places and communities in the right places is central to our mission. This funding will support the delivery of much-needed homes and bolster the local economy.

Where are garden towns and villages being built?

The 10 garden towns which have been allocated funding include Hemel, Hertfordshire; Otterpool Park, Folkestone and Hythe; Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire; Taunton, Somerset; greater Exeter, Devon. 33 Garden Villages have been allocated funding, including Newton Abbot, Teignbridge; Langarth, Cornwall; Northeast Chelmsford, Essex; Long Marston, Stratford-on-Avon; North Dorchester, Dorset; South Seaham, Durham; Wynyard Park, Hartlepool.

We look at three sites which the new funding will go towards regenerating:

Long Marston

This former airfield near Stratford-on-Avon in Warwickshire is set to see 3,500 new homes with a requirement for 35% of these to be affordable housing. It’s one of the first of the new-style garden villages and work is well underway; the first residents have moved in, and planning applications have been submitted to Stratford-on-Avon District Council for more houses.

Eventually, this former brownfield site will include a 15-acre business park, shops, a food store, community hall, medical centre, schools and sports pitches and it will be developed over the next 20 years. It’s one of 14 sites developed under garden village principles, one of which is that the scheme must be self-contained with all facilities on site, not merely an extension of existing urban areas.

The land has been purchased by developer CALA Homes Midlands and the first phase involves 400 homes, 17.5% of which must be affordable, plus employment land and open space. The development includes a Section 106 agreement which will see around £3 million shared between Stratford-on-Avon District Council and Warwickshire County Council for community projects. There are currently two, three- and four-bedroom houses for sale here, ranging in price from £314,950 to £549,950.

Oatvale is a four-bedroom house on a corner plot at Fernleigh Park on the Long Marston development, Stratford-on-Avon. It’s priced at £549,950.

Halsnead Garden Village

This development in Knowsley, Merseyside, will deliver 1,619 new homes, and provide 55 acres of employment land and 81 acres of green space. To improve biodiversity in the area, the scheme includes a country park, playing fields, a lake and woodland improvements, wetlands and restored wildflower meadows. Schools and community facilities are also planned.

In February 2022, Knowsley Council approved plans for 350 homes from housebuilder Taylor Wimpey for the 40-acre site, which will include three and four-bedroom houses. Housebuilders Stewart Milne Homes, Bloor Homes and Maro are also involved in the scheme.

West Carclaze Garden Village

West Carclaze Garden Village.

One of the first new garden villages in a generation, West Carclaze near St Austell in Cornwall makes full use of new technology to offer residents a sustainable community environment with strong links to nature. The scheme aims to promote health and wellbeing and offer homes that local people can afford.

The 500-acre site includes 350 acres of managed country park, five lakes, country trails and bridleways. Allotments and orchards are planned, along with public spaces and areas for community events. There will also be cafes and restaurants, meeting rooms, a shop and a play park.

The UK’s first net carbon-zero school is also part of the scheme, along with flexible workspaces. The development uses new energy-saving technology to minimise heating requirements along with high standards of insulation and solar power. It’s estimated that West Carclaze will be net-zero in under 30 years’ time.

Up to 1,500 new homes are planned, which will be low-energy, sustainable homes with an EPC `A’ rating. Every home will have a heat ventilation recovery system, an air source heat pump as standard, and solar panels.

Community creation development company Eco-Bos started the build two years ago and families are now living in the first phase homes. The company plans to have built around 160 homes by the end of this year and is looking at building up to 200 homes a year for the next eight years.

A waiting list for homes

Dorian Beresford, chief development officer at West Carclaze, said there is huge interest in the homes, adding:

Sales started in the first week of December 2021 – we have now sold 76 homes and have a waiting list of 200 people for the second phase. For many, these are dream homes and buyers are attracted by the running costs and the lifestyle.

We are a 21st-century Cornish community, and have seen local buyers, first-time buyers, second steppers, returners and re-locators wanting to buy here and we try and keep prices as affordable as possible. While Cornwall is obviously a rural county, there are jobs nearby within walking distance and Newquay is not far away. New bus routes are being put in place and electric bike hire is available on site.

We’re also building one of the first carbon-neutral schools in partnership with the Eden Project. All our homes are EPC `A-rated and are almost carbon neutral – saving up to 5.9 tons of carbon per house per year. The combined energy cost is £413 per year for a three-bedroom house.

Prices range from £550,000 for a four-bedroom detached house with high specification finishes, to £350,000 for a four-bedroom detached house. The highest price for a three-bedroom detached house is £338,500 while two-bedroom apartments range from £299,775 to £187,000.

The Buttercup at West Carclaze, a detached four-bedroom house with two bathrooms and premium finishes, is priced at £550,000.

Criticism of Garden Towns and Villages

Opponents say that the schemes are being built too far away from town centre facilities, workplaces and public transport, including railway stations, making inhabitants reliant on cars. Transport for New Homes, which campaigns for new housing to be built where residents can walk, cycle or use public transport in their daily lives, says that planning permission for garden developments should not be granted until sustainable transport methods, including cycleways, are organised and funded.

Steve Chambers, Sustainable Transport Campaigner at Transport for New Homes said:

Garden communities will provide a significant number of new homes in the housebuilding pipeline for England. At the time of our 2020 research report ‘Garden Villages and Garden Towns: Visions and Reality,’ garden towns and garden villages were likely to supply over 400,000 new homes. That number will have gone up since the report. For our research, we looked in detail at approximately half the proposed garden communities and found that with few exceptions the new homes would be car-dependent.

Your views on garden towns and villages

If you live in a garden town or village, we’d love to know what you think about it.

Do you think they offer an inspiring and eco-friendly way of living or are there drawbacks?

Please leave a comment below.

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