Shortly after Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg announced the Government’s new policy of New Garden Cities, the press also reported that Nick Boles said that these need not contain ‘Affordable Homes’.
But does this really mean that the New Garden Cities will contain no Affordable Homes, despite the headlines saying so?
According to the Garden City Prospectus, published on 14th April 2014, “a major Garden City is an opportunity for Councils to take a strategic development decision about how it should meet housing need over the next decade and beyond” (italitics are mine). So, to me it is quite clear – Councils must, when planning for Garden Cities, understand their housing need and plan for it accordingly – this is no different from the duties and obligations set out in The National Planning Policy Framework, in that all sorts of housing need (including affordable, and indeed self-build) must be assessed, and meeting this demand reflected in Local Planning Policy.
So, despite the headlnes, it seems that Local Councils must still have Affordable Homes in Garden Cities if they have identified a need for them.
Now, I suppose that some promotors, owners and developers of Garden Cities will try to claim that despite the identified need for Affordable Homes they can’t afford to supply them. But, I think that any decent Local Authority should counter-argue that with the appropriate development model (such as a Development Corporation owning the land acquired at agricultural land prices) Affordable Homes can be afforded by using the up-lift in land values which the long-term development will create. Of course, this does require a decent Local Authority which is prepared to make the argument and a decent central Government which is also prepared to make Local Authorities take this approach. I know that this is a big assumption: that we have a Government and Local Authorities that really what to deliver mixed, sustainable communities.
So, has anything changed?:I think not.
Must Local Authorities include Affordable Homes in Garden Cities? If they have identified there is no need for them the answer is ‘no’, but in reallity nearly every Local Authority will have a need for Affordable Homes which they then have to plan for in their Local Plans (and Garden Cities are part of the Local Plan). So, don’t believe the headlines which come out of speeches and announcements of Ministers – go to the detail and the source material. Not even Government Ministers can change the law and regulations by a speech, so always check what the rules and regulations are and see if they really have been changed.