Last edited 15 Jan 2021

Main author

Atiyeh Rose Pourmatin Other Consultant Website

A renaissance in the idea of garden villages and towns

Garden village 800.jpg


[edit] Introduction

The concept of garden towns or garden villages was first introduced in the UK in 1898 and has continued to modestly grow ever since to be defined as: a free-standing, self-sustaining, high-quality urban space that can address the housing issues and is led by the local authority and supported by the community.

While garden villages/towns are universally seen as a good idea, their relatively slow growth is down to the existing ones failing to be the Utopia they promised to be. This discouraging outcome is rooted in the lack of a mechanism that considers all social and technical impacts of a new development in its context in a wholesome manner.

In this article, we analyse some of the most common problems associated with garden villages/towns, their criticisms, their respective solutions and their relationship to BREEAM Communities methodology.

[edit] Loss of character

Garden villages/towns have been often criticised for not respecting or retaining the original character of the locale they are developed in.

Every region and community holds its own unique characteristics and vernacular. Continuity between architectural style and building design within the development and the surrounding area will create a coalition between the existing and new residents which in turn adds value to the quality of life within that community.

Injecting a new neighbourhood into the countryside with its own facilities and potentially new occupants requires a great deal of scrutiny into the existing and local features through studying the surroundings, as well as undertaking consultations with stakeholders and community representatives. The BREEAM Communities scheme has an assessment issue worth two credits dedicated to the subject of local vernacular to confirm that the development relates to the local character while reinforcing its own identity through a few practical steps.

[edit] Infrastructure

Concentrating new homes in purpose-built new towns or villages has a twofold effect on infrastructure:

  1. Services and infrastructure (such as new drainage systems and gas and electricity services etc.) are built as part of the development which can upset locals in numerous ways if not done properly. Power loss, road closures, interruptions of customer supply or unnecessary expenses are some of the unwelcome outcomes of an inefficient plan for the existing/surrounding communities. This is addressed under BREEAM Communities’ 'Utilities' assessment issue where three credits are awarded for providing ducting and access points for services, and also for service providerscoordination to ensure that installation and maintenance do not interrupt consumerssupply.
  2. It puts pressure on existing infrastructure and services where no extra infrastructure or services have been provided to support the new homes . The notion of considering communities' needs and requirements in terms of services and facilities and also the delivery of these are visited in a few assessment issues within BREEAM Communities at the very early stages of development.

[edit] Traffic

Milton Keynes, as one of the first new-age garden cities, has over the years been criticised for its grid of broad roads that steers residents towards driving cars rather than using public transport. The grid also frustrates developers by taking up more space than a traditional city street, despite the fact that it distributes traffic.

Other garden villages/towns, on the other hand, seem to have been unable to cope with the traffic load due to poor or no evaluation of the infrastructural needs of a newly built community.

Both of the above cases have led to unhappy stakeholders, whether that is the community or the local authority. Whereas an early consultation with the stakeholders alongside an assessment of the transport situation in the area followed by a design review in line with the results can prevent either of the above issues.

To achieve this BREEAM Communities provides step-by-step guidance to:

[edit] Other issues

Overloaded schools and surgeries, a lack of essential facilities such as shops, post offices and banks, and an absence of green infrastructure are some of the other issues that have made the garden city movement unsustainable. These have all resulted from not considering demographic needs in general - which is the core of BREEAM Communities methodology.

Undeniably there are other types of hurdles to building practical garden villages/towns. However, with the government’s financial backing, lessons learned from the previous projects and the sciences within the communities assessment methodology, now is the right time to create garden villages and towns that are, more than ever, environmentally, socially and economically sustainable.

The most commonly accepted number of homes the UK needs to be building each year, in order to meet future housing need, is 240,000. Despite the small increase in the number of newly built homes, we are far from achieving this, hence the Government backing of garden villages. However, the housing crisis is not about how many homes we can build each year, it is about how many of these homes are affordable, habitable and practical for the people and the community. This is where the politically sponsored, sustainably created and socially approved garden villages/towns come into play.

--Atiyeh Rose Pourmatin 10:52, 20 Mar 2018 (BST)

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