Is garden village housing solution for Saffron Walden and Dunmow?

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A garden village could be built in Saffron Walden or Dunmow, if residents agree to it.

There will be a consultation in the autumn, the leader of Uttlesford District Council, Councillor Howard Rolfe told the Reporter.

Residents will be asked whether they prefer new homes to be built in small clusters or as a new settlement - or a mixture of both.

He said the exact number of new homes to be built each year was still being calculated. The council had proposed 530 a year for the next 20 years, the Government inspector had demanded 580. The council was now waiting for the number to be worked out according to the SHMA (the Strategic Housing Market Assessment) which was produced for the local authority by outside consultants.

Meanwhile, more than 5,000 houses were already in the pipeline having been given planning permission.

The consultation would be in two chunks, he said. If the local population agreed to a garden development in principle, then options for sites would be consulted on.

The essence of a garden village, built at the instruction of the local authority, by developers they appoint, on land they chose, to standards they decide was outlined to councillors at a meeting of the Planning Policy Working Group on Monday.

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The meeting was addressed by Sir Brian Briscoe board member of Garden City Developments. This is a not for profit company which supports local authorities in building new communities.

Sir Brian said typically, there is a five-year battle between a prospective developer and the local authority. The developer says they cannot afford to build what the council wants. The council turns down the initial planning application. There is a drawn-out appeal process at the end of which the developer wins a decision by Secretary of State.

But, he said, no one gets what they want. The developer wants more density, the authority wants more affordable homes, the local people didn’t want the development at all.

Sir Brian, a former town planner in Hertfordshire and chief executive officer of Hertfordshire for six years before becoming chief executive of the Local Government Association, said there were government grants and soft loans both for the consultation needed to plan a garden community and for the capital investment.

He said: “The reason garden cities were set up was to build a community that had the best of the countryside and the town. It was about creating a place where people have access to all the things they need for a decent and proper life rather than sticking a housing estate onto the edge of the next biggest town.”

He said the new development should pay for itself and not be a burden on the local community.

The infrastructure of health services, shops and schools should be there as people move in, not afterwards.

He told the councillors: “You are responsible, not the house-builders who want to come in and build. You need to work with landowners and the infrastructure providers. Everyone needs to make a profit, the public the local authority, the landowner and the developer but one of them shouldn’t make a profit at the expense of the others. There is too much of that in Britain.

“You look at the area where you would like to see a garden city. You work out what it would cost to manage and cost out the public facilities and make sure the money comes out of the land value as an endowment or an income stream.”

In Letchworth Garden City, he said, homes were sold as leasehold and the ground rent looked after the town. In Milton Keynes, an endowment the size of the usual adoption charge had been given to a trust rather than to the local authority.

“If that money had been given to a local authority, five years later, they wouldn’t know they had had it. But this was managed so that £18million was turned into £25million. That money was ring-fenced as a charity called the Parks Trust.

“The impact of new development on public services is what this all about. It should not happen that the landowner and the developer walk away with their profit and the problems be dumped on the local community or the local authority who needs to provide them.

“I don’t blame the public for saying I don’t want more development if all we get is more traffic and more problems, we understand that. So let’s create a system so that when a new development is allowed it makes the place better.”