Practice’s proposal for new towns could net £250,000 prize

Barton Wilmore garden cities map
Barton Willmore leads one of five teams in contention for Wolfson Prize

Barton Willmore, an integrated planning and design consultancy which includes landscape architects, is one of five teams shortlisted for this year’s Wolfson Economics Prize which asked entrants to come up with ideas for new garden cities.

Barton Willmore’s proposal provides a way to analyse need and set up a mechanism to create new garden cities.

The other four shortlisted projects are: a suggestion for a new garden city on the Hoo Peninsula in Kent, put forward by housing charity Shelter; a proposal for Letchworth-sized towns, developed by Garden City Development Corporations, and put forward by Golding Homes; ‘Uxcester’, an urban expansion project proposed by urbanism consultant URBED; and, a proposal for an arc of development beyond the London Green Belt, suggested by architect Wei Yang & Partners with engineer Buro Happold.

Entrants were responding to the question, posed by the Wolfson Foundation, ‘How would you deliver a new Garden City which is visionary, economically viable, and popular?’. The five shortlisted teams will take their proposals forward, with a prize of £250,000 for the winner, and £10,000 for each of the others.

Barton Willmore proposes leading a national campaign that taps into the housing crisis and reaches out to those struggling to get on to or move up (and down) the housing ladder. The campaign would aim to resonate with a diverse demographic of people and families currently housed in inappropriate accommodation or those simply aspiring to an enhanced quality of life.

The submission seeks to transcend political cycles, promoting a long-term cross-party committee, possibly sitting in the House of Lords. The committee would commission a National Spatial Plan to examine national locations for growth determined by clear criteria of landscape capability, existing supporting infrastructure and proximity to economic drivers, distributing growth to the regions and where it’s most needed.

The team estimates that it would take nine garden cities, each the size of Milton Keynes, 25 years just to catch up with the current housing shortfall. This urgent need is why, rather than throwing out the rulebook, Barton Willmore opted to work within existing systems and legislation, subject to some amendments.

The submission was informed by an industry-wide think tank including developers, landowners, former Government officials and specialists in the fields of taxation, planning law and good design. They concluded that Garden City Mayors, sub-regionally elected on a pro-growth mandate, should be responsible for the delivery of new garden cities at a local level and seek to partner with land-owners, leaving land value in the deal to mature, rather than rely on Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) powers.

To give a place the flexibility to grow over time, the submission advises the renewed promotion of many under-utilised tools from existing planning legislation such as Local Development Orders (LDOs) or amending the National Strategic Infrastructure Programme (NSIP) to allow residential development. These tools would also support custom and cooperative build, and give new communities the freedom to grow organically.

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