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Garden city idea is back on the agenda
A GARDEN city for Oxfordshire has been proposed again, this time by planning minister Nick Boles.
The minister suggested the idea to Wantage MP Ed Vaizey in response to his call for an “urgent review” over Oxfordshire’s housing target.
In a letter to Mr Vaizey, Mr Boles said: “We are keen to support the establishment of locally-supported new settlements in line with garden city principles – providing not just the homes we need but high quality, well-designed places.”
Newbury planning consultant Ken Dijksman previously revealed to the Oxford Mail he was drawing up a plan for a 30,000-home garden city on land between Abingdon, Steventon and East Hanney.
The new conurbation was proposed for more than 2,000 hectares of land in the Vale of White Horse, previously earmarked for a reservoir and an international airport.
It was not clear last night at what stage those plans had reached.
The Government published its prospectus for locally-led Garden Cities on April 14.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said he would not impose a garden city on Oxfordshire, but invited local areas to submit their own plans.
Chancellor George Osborne has already promised £200m to provide infrastructure for a new settlement in Ebbsfleet, Kent.
Liberal Democrat group leader on Vale of White Horse District Council, Richard Webber, welcomed the suggestion of a garden city from anyone.
He said: “We need to plan properly, even if it takes five or 10 years, and garden cities need to be part of that discussion.
“A garden city would actually ease the housing problem, certainly in time for our next Local Plan for development, if not now.
“If the Government said ‘we will relieve the pressure while you undertake to assign a garden city or two’ then we could have a properly-planned system put together to high environmental standards with money to pay for proper infrastructure.
“We urgently need a conversation. People need to understand we need more houses and we have to be brave.”
Mr Vaizey wrote to Mr Boles calling on the minister to “urgently review” the government-approved Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA), which set Oxfordshire’s housing need at 100,000 homes in 15 years.
County polticians have spoken out against the SHMA figures, including Conservative Henley MP John Howell, as reported in the Oxford Mail on May 13.
The county’s district council leaders, Matthew Barber, Ann Ducker, Barry Norton and Barry Wood, all backed the call for an urgent review.
The minister’s reply to Mr Vaizey’s letter read: “Your needs assessment will give you a clear sense of the challenge you face in providing enough houses to meet local need.”
He went on: “I know that there are ambitious plans for Bicester which we have been discussing with Rt Hon Sir Tony Baldry MP and which we are keen to support. I hope these comments have been helpful and I would be more than happy to meet with you and all of the Oxford [sic] councils to discuss.”
Mr Vaizey was unavailable to comment on Mr Boles’ response.
LAND GRABBING PLANS PUT FORWARD IN PAST
- 1993: Thames Water propose building a £1bn reservoir on the site. The Group Against Reservoir Development (GARD) is formed.
- 2007: The idea is proposed again and GARD reform to fight it once more
- July 2013: Ken Dijksman first reveals plans for a 30,000-home garden city, left
- August 2013: Bristol architects firm Pleiade Associates submits proposals for an £18.2bn, four-runway airport to the Government’s airports commission
- September 2013: Progressive Aviation Group submits an even bigger, though less detailed, plan. Both plans were rejected.
IDEA DATES BACK TO LATE 19th CENTURY
- The garden city movement was founded in 1898 by Sir Ebenezer Howard as a way of fighting increasing urbanisation
- Howard proposed building self-contained settlements, complete with schools, roads, green spaces and carefully-planned houses, instead of the uncontrolled sprawl of industrial terraces popular at the time
- Settlements which balanced development and open space were pioneered at Letchworth and Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire and Hampstead, north London.
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