Following the announcement of a key plank of the Government’s latest attempt to get to grips with the housing market, the country is to build 14 garden villages and three garden towns. Or, at least, ministers will stump up £6million to help get the former off the ground and £1.4million for the latter over a two-year period.
Should all come to fruition, the approved plans could deliver around 200,000 new homes including a sizeable chunk of real estate in the commuter belt serving east London.
The least controversial of these is probably the creation of a village at Dunton Hills in Essex.
To the south of Brentwood and west of Basildon, potential residents would find themselves about a half-hour drive from Canary Wharf with West Horndon the closest railway station offering connections to Stratford in about 20 minutes.
Facing far more likely opposition is a plan to create a garden town outside Harlow on the Essex-Hertfordshire border, essentially incorporating the Green Belt villages of Gilston and Eastwick into a larger urban area.
Potential future residents, excluding time spent navigating round protestors chained together in front of bulldozers, could expect an easy 36-minute drive down the M11 to the Wharf or half an hour via train from Harlow Town.
Both the proposed village and town are firmly in the commuter belt of east London and, with regeneration schemes such as Olympicopolis and ABP in Royal Docks and further expansion of Canary Wharf itself, it seems likely both would become dormitories for London workers – something critics of the scheme say runs contrary to the idea such developments are based on.
Former housing minister and MP for Welwyn Hatfield, a constituency that contains one of the two original Garden Cities, Grant Shapps said: “That whole idea of having an area that you live in that you can walk to work or take local transport to work – that is one of the key ethoses of a garden city.
"What worries me about all of these announcements…is perhaps it is just a good name to tag on to more housing development rather than somewhere which would be brilliant to live.
“If it is not then we will have failed to actually create new garden cities, we would have just tried to make housing sound more popular.”
Housing minister Gavin Barwell said garden towns and villages had enormous potential to deliver the homes communities needed.
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