Shadow planning minister champions garden city principles in Letchworth visit

Shadow Planning Minister Roberta Blackman-Woods was given a tour of Letchworth GC's International Ga

Shadow Planning Minister Roberta Blackman-Woods was given a tour of Letchworth GC's International Garden Cities Exhibition by town historian Josh Tidy - Credit: Archant, Christian Trampenau

The shadow planning minister has endorsed garden city principles as a potential solution to Britain’s chronic housing shortage.

MP Roberta Blackman-Woods, Labour’s shadow minister for communities and local government, paid a visit to Letchworth GC on Thursday and lent her support to the building of new garden cities as an answer to what is being described as a housing crisis.

The Labour Party has committed to building 200,000 houses a year by the end of the next parliament if it returns to power and the MP for Durham was visiting the International Garden Cities Exhibition in Norton Way South to focus on the principles of the world’s first garden city.

Ms Blackman-Woods said: “The reason I am in Letchworth is because it’s such a beautiful town and it really applies the garden city principles. I think the garden city movement is very attractive because people want to think not just about houses, but where people will work, where the children will go to school and what care facilities are available. I really think this idea of community building has come back onto the agenda. If the ideas of the community are on board then I think we are much more likely to get consent for the developments, which has been missing from a lot of the discussions.

“But there is not a lot of money around to be able to just go and develop garden cities. We need to work out where we can get sources of income from and look at how to engage the community.”

John Lewis, chief executive of the Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation, said: “We are sure garden cities can be part of the solution to the chronic housing shortage in the UK. They are all about creating great places, where people are happy to live, balancing the best of town and country living. And the essence of Letchworth, and other garden cities, is that the land is held in trust for the community, so we can invest the proceeds to meet their needs. We believe any new garden cities must have this at their core.”

North Hertfordshire District Council’s Local Plan proposes a total of 10,700 new homes to be built across the district by 2031, including 1,500 in Letchworth GC.

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A proposal to build 1,000 homes on Green Belt land to the north of the Grange Estate has been widely criticised by residents, and councillor Steve Jarvis feels there would be similar levels of opposition regarding the creation of a new garden city elsewhere in the UK.

“Garden cities are certainly an attractive way of providing additional housing, although they are not a quick solution,” said Cllr Jarvis, the Liberal Democrat group leader at the district council.

“They need to be large enough to provide employment, shopping, recreation and entertainment as well as housing, or they will just become dormitories, which everyone agrees is a bad idea. The problem of course will be agreeing where they should go. Everybody will suggest that they should be somewhere else.”

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