The Future Spaces Foundation (FSF) has just published a report on the potential that “garden cities” might have in fighting the current shortage of houses in Britain.
Britain’s population has grown fast in the last 15 years, at an annual rate of more than 0.5% since the year 2000. In 2007 the Government set a target to build 2 million houses before 2016, but the economic crisis made this plan impossible to deliver. When the new Parliament started in 2010, the National Housing and Planning Advice Unit recommended that almost 300,000 new houses should be built every year until 2031, totaling almost 6 million houses.
“Garden cities” have often been advocated as the solution for the country’s chronic house crisis. Garden cities are new urban settlements built in the countryside, with extensive green areas between the rows of houses. One example of a garden city, built at the beginning of the 20th century, is Letchworth in Hertfordshire.
According to the foundation, solving the housing shortage of London alone would require up to 67 new garden cities of 30,000 people each.
The foundation illustrated this impossible solution in this map, in which every little red and blue dot is the location of a potential garden city:
The report states that building the 1 million homes that London currently needs completely through garden cities would take 675 km² of land. That’s about 6.8% of unprotected, unbuilt-on land within a 50 mile radius of London.
The foundation proposes instead that we should keep urban and non-urban areas clearly separated, and to densify the current cities and towns rather than opening up new construction zones across the countryside. Ken Shuttleworth, the chairman of the Future Spaces Foundation, says:
If you look at our major cities they are low density compared to global cities, and I include London in that. Rather than default to the path of least resistance and build on greenfield land we need a change of mindset. Dense cities are efficient, vibrant and with clever design can also be attractive places to live.
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