The 2014 Wolfson Economics Prize, run by Policy Exchange, offers £250,000 for the best proposal on how to deliver a new garden city. Today the judges have announced the five finalists, who are as follows:

Barton Willmore, led by James Gross. This proposal focuses on the mechanisms needed to successfully choose a location, design the development and deliver it – exploring the necessity of local engagement and consultation to secure consent. It deliberately refuses to specify where the development should be, arguing that it will only be successful if carried out in a localist way, with Garden City Commissions headed by Garden City Mayors.

Chris Blundell FRICS FCIH, Director of Development & Regeneration at Golding Homes. The second finalist also explores the process by which a Garden City could be planned, though his suggestion is for Garden City Development Corporations to co-ordinate the projects, raise finance and encourage landowners to invest their land in order to ensure a sustainable financial footing for a town of 30,000-40,000 people

David Rudlin of URBED (with Nicholas Falk (URBED), and input from Jon Rowland (John Rowland Urban Design, Joe Ravetz (Manchester University) and Peter Redman (Managing Director, Policy and Research at TradeRisks Ltd). URBED is an urban design and research practice. Rudlin’s model is radically different, arguing that the best approach would be to radically extend an existing town by about 150,000 people. He and his team explore the practicalities of the idea through an imaginary town named Uxcester, demonstrating how existing authorities could collaborate on the project through a Garden City Trust.

Shelter, the housing and homelessness charity, led by their Head of Policy Toby Lloyd. The only one of the five finalists to specify and plan in detail a Garden City in a particular location, Shelter proposes the development of a number of connected settlements on the Hoo Peninsula (Medway, Kent). The Garden City would be centred around a 48,000 person town at Stoke Harbour, with various other developments being constructed over 14 years until the total population reaches 150,000. Local residents would be able to buy shares in the city. Here is the map of their proposal:

Site Diagrams Final

Wei Yang & Partners in collaboration with Buro Happold Consulting Engineers, led by Pat Willoughby. This plan identifies a wide arc of land beyond the London Green Belt (illustrated below) as the ideal potential location for new Garden City developments, taking into account existing and planned infrastructure. A national Garden Cities Trust would oversee the search for sites and the work of individual Garden City companies as they construct and establish the Cities themselves.

FINALIST -  wei yang regional diagram

Alongside the finalists, Policy Exchange has today published some very interesting polling on the electorate’s views on Garden Cities. There’s strong overall and cross-party support (even among UKIP who are historically more NIMBYish), and the poll shows that appealing to older voters to support opportunities for the young is a powerful way of building consent for such projects. The proof of the pudding will, as ever, be in the eating – as several of the above entries suggest, the whole project will only succeed if the backing or at least consent of local residents is secured first.

Yet again, the prize model has proved to be an extremely effective way of debating and developing radical policies – as we saw with the IEA’s recent Brexit Prize, for example. This won’t be the last we hear of Garden Cities – not only is the Government interested in building one or more, but the finalists themselves now have until August to sharpen their ideas before we find out who is the overall winner of the 2014 Wolfson Prize.

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