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Our green and pleasant land holds the answer to better communities

How the turn of the last century’s ideas for garden cities, towns and villages may be the key to living truly 21st century lives.

Garden cities were first proposed by Sir Ebenezer Howard back in 1898, but was he ahead of his time and are they in fact the solution for many of today’s challenges?

This new vision of urban planning came about as Howard was working to eradicate the slums from our largest towns. The idea was to create affordable housing in self-contained communities, which weren’t an extension of, or reliant on, existing towns or cities. And yet the community and accessibility they created – almost as a by-product – could solve current and future issues around inclusion, isolation and loneliness, and not least provide much-needed housing stock.

Planned communities

Garden cities were designed to house people well, generate jobs and provide good schools and healthcare. Infrastructure was considered and planned, helping to create strong communities from the beginning.

Good design meant that these communities were able to adapt to the changing needs of the economy, society and environment, and that inhabitants felt connected to where they live – and to the surrounding countryside.

Bournville’s success

The notion of smaller settlements also began to materialise as garden towns and villages. One of the most famous examples of a garden village is Birmingham’s Bournville – the inspiring work of George Cadbury, who wanted create a decent home for his chocolate factory workers.

As well as 143 high-quality cottages, Bournville has given its people open spaces, schools, a hospital, museums, public baths, reading rooms, a triangular village green, infant and junior schools, and the now famous School of Art.

Cadbury recognised the benefits, and these still absolutely stand today – and are recognised by a number of English councils, 13 of which have applied for government support to build a new settlement under the Garden Villages programme.

Funding the new way

Funding for this could come from existing schemes such as the £2.3bn Starter Homes Fund, Help to Buy, or other pots of cash outside the housing sector such as the Free Schools Programme.

Councils that submit an expression of interest to build a settlement of between 1,500 and 10,000 homes are eligible for the Garden Villages scheme. York Council is one such example, recently bidding for 3,339 homes over a 159-hectare site in open countryside.

Others following suit include Bolton, Carlisle, Cornwall, Rotherham, Huntingdon, North Tyneside, Rugby, Sevenoaks, Sheffield, Stratford-upon-Avon and Waverley. There are also more wide-reaching proposals such as that from Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton, whose joint application will result in 45,000 new homes across 31 different areas, due for completion by 2025.

Resolving housing demands

There’s no doubt that garden villages have the potential to resolve some pressing housing demands, as West Oxfordshire District Council has demonstrated. An area just off the M40 and to the north of Eynsham has been earmarked by central government for a locally led garden village.

The demand for housing in the area is huge and there’s simply not enough stock right now to meet this demand, which is why the council is eager to develop this scheme in collaboration with the local community.

The site mooted is far from the final choice, and if the bid is successful they plan to agree the site’s location

How mi-pad® fits in

At mi-pad® we couldn’t be more in favour of garden villages and cities. The community and sense of belonging, the green spaces, the planned infrastructure to meet the needs of today and tomorrow, and the reduction in carbon footprint all combine to present a very compelling living arrangement.

Which is why we’re actively working to use our dwellings in several of these schemes – delivering affordable and sustainable housing for tomorrow, today.

Find out how mi-pad® reimagines the ideal home… Read more