Cllr Richard Chesterton is the Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Planning and Economic Regeneration on Mid Devon District Council.
The question of how to deliver more homes has been frequently asked in recent times. Struggling with a lack of supply and a high demand for new homes, past governments have tried unsuccessfully to tackle both the lack of delivery and house price inflation. Much blame has been put on a complex planning system and under supply of land as the reason why we are not managing to build 230,000 new homes per year as required to keep up with demand.
The Garden City movement was started by development pioneer, Sir Ebenezer Howard. In the 1890s he set out the idea of planned self-contained settlements surrounded by a ring of countryside. This was intended as an alternative to industrial slums, with green space and community at their heart; Letchworth Garden City being the first followed by Welwyn Garden City in 1920s.
One of the main challenges with larger Garden Cities is the complex delivery of key infrastructure resulting in a long lead time before a house is built. One solution is smaller scale developments with an efficient use of physical infrastructure and an effective rate of delivery.
Lord Taylor of Goss Moor produced a report in 2015 titled “Garden Villages”. Based on the urban planning principles of Sir Ebenezer Howard, Garden Villages are smaller settlements of between 1,500 and 10,000 homes that are not simply an extension of existing urban areas but distinct new places to live with their own defined community, facilities, and amenities. They provide multiple opportunities for residential and commercial development, thereby increasing the rate of development and speed at which a critical mass of activity is secured.
The government announcement last week that Culm, in Mid Devon, will be one of 14 new garden villages to be developed across the country is the result of close consultation between Mid Devon District Council, Cullompton Town Council, and local community through their Neighbourhood Plan Group.
Ministers see garden villages as part of a new generation of locally led development to meet local housing need, with a focus on creating attractive, well-designed places. One of the key benefits of Culm receiving garden village status is that it will assist in delivering urgently needed infrastructure for the Cullompton Area. Mid Devon proposes to prioritise any Government financial infrastructure support towards highway improvements including the town centre relief road and M5 J28 improvements together with measures to reduce flood risk.
Mid Devon’s Local Plan Review identifies the area to the East of the M5 at Cullompton as a suitable location for strategic growth. In addition, a neighbourhood plan for Cullompton is being prepared by the community which also proposes housing in this area to support community infrastructure. The development will include starter homes, affordable housing, schools, local shops, commercial space, and a significant area of open space along with a sports hub. At its north end, there are plans for a country park that will be based on a mixture of tree planting and lakes that will help manage water in the Culm Valley and alleviate flooding as well as giving residents access to open space.
The first phase of 1,750 houses of the garden village are proposed to be on land allocated under Mid Devon’s Local Plan Review with the potential of some additional housing being allocated through the ongoing Cullompton Neighbourhood Plan. In the longer term, a second phase of the development, bringing the total number of new houses up to 5,000, will be identified on additional land in the area. This additional development will need to go through an allocation process in a later development plan and will be subject to full public consultation.
Mid Devon District Council’s expression of interest was supported by Cullompton Town Council, Cullompton Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group, and the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership.