Monday, 4 August 2014

Financial incentives for locals to lead garden cities

When the Government published it's garden city prospectus in April it expressed a belief, somewhat optimistically, that "in many areas, people want to be ambitious and innovative in their approach to delivering the homes they need."

The prospectus is consistent with the message that emanated from ministers prior to it's publication, which was that new towns would not be imposed on any part of the country, so at paragraph 5, for example, it states that "we would like to work with local authorities who want to create locally-led Garden Cities".

Well Eland House has clearly not been inundated with requests from local authority chief executives  because Nick Clegg has sought to pique interest by suggesting that the government could 'buy homes blighted by developments or offer owners council tax cuts while building takes place'.

Tellingly, Mr Clegg states that "we are actively looking at things to show that we will go the extra mile to allay those concerns of people who feel that their property or the price of their home might be affected." These are no doubt the same people who the British Social Attitudes survey reveals accept the need for new homes to be built, but just not near them (which is most of the country...).

Housing Minister Brandon Lewis has described Mr Clegg's suggestions as an "interesting contribution" to the debate. They are interesting in that they highlight the path between growth-promotion and house price-preservation that the political parties will be navigating between now and the election, but I would predict with some confidence that they will not prompt a local authority chief executive to dust off an eco-town prospectus and pick up the phone to Mr Pickles. 

In anticipation of the prospectus earlier this year I wrote in this post that if it only goes as far as to say that 'garden cities are a good idea and local authorities should work with communities to explore their creation' then the next garden city or two is probably still another generation away. That Mr Clegg has had to move the debate towards financial incentives illustrates this point. If Garden Cities are going to be built they will need to be Government-led not locally-led, but we will need to get the general election out of the way for a political to even contemplate saying so. 

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