Challenges and opportunities of Garden Communities

  • Date

    Thu 29 Jun 17

Around 100 people including councillors, local residents and businesses joined a debate on the challenges and opportunities of garden communities.

Local authorities in North Essex are working on proposals for three new communities, based on ‘Garden City Principles’ with a focus on job provision, green space, and cutting-edge design. They see it as an opportunity to move away from urban sprawl and instead develop holistically-planned communities, which are infrastructure-led. The event, held at the University of Essex, explored what needs to be done, if the proposals go ahead, to make sure really great communities are created.

Professor Jules Pretty, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University of Essex, chaired the event and afterwards said: “This proved to be a really interesting discussion, which acknowledged garden communities present a unique opportunity to do something really special in Essex, but recognised there are challenges which need to be addressed. Getting the balance between development which is socially, economically and ecologically sustainable will be crucial.

“There were questions raised about everything from the transport infrastructure to the importance of creating well-paid jobs, close to where people live – this is the something the University is well-placed to help with. Our Knowledge Gateway is already helping to build a vibrant knowledge economy and could be the start of a wider cluster economy, where small businesses have the opportunity to flourish in a supportive environment.”

Philip Ross, from the Garden Cities Alliance and a former Mayor of Letchworth – the world’s first garden city, provided an overview of the work he has done with the Campaign to Protect Rural England, to set minimum standards for developments of this kind. Tim Bacon, a former town planner with three local authorities, who was also instrumental in setting up the Loughborough Science Park, talked about the role science parks have in job creation, innovation and economic growth.

Academics from the University covered the importance of green spaces to health and well-being, factors which help businesses grow and how social science research can help garden communities succeed. The need for plenty of green space was of particular interest prompting many questions on everything from the optimum size needed to bring maximum benefits to the challenges of making sure people use the spaces provided.