A Potential Answer to the Housing Crisis?

Thoughts and musings

A Potential Answer to the Housing Crisis?

Lewis | March 6, 2015 | 0 Comments

Is it possible than an urban planning method originally created during the Victorian era could solve the housing crisis Britain currently finds itself in 2015? It may split opinion, but an article online from The Guardian, as penned by Patrick Barkham, entertains the very real possibility that is could be. But Barkham also entertains the equally-real possibility that it will result in more suburban housing blighting the “greenfields” of the UK. Either way, a housing crisis continues to rage…

The garden city movement was initiated by an Englishman named Ebenezer Howard, which was a plan for urban environments consisting of self-contained communities surrounded by “greenbelts”, a policy where undeveloped or agricultural land surrounds urban areas. The featured image for this blog post is an example of a garden city; that of Zlín, in the Czech Republic. This is just a visual of a current garden city for your reference; the one that is looked at in the featured article, and as a result this blog post, is development of Ebbsfleet, in West Kent part of the Thames Gateway.

It is argued that not only will the proposed developments in Ebbsfleet contribute to lessen the housing crisis, but also maintain the rural environment. The desire to avoid yet another “urban jungle” is stressed, and these fears are also echoed by opposition to garden cities; some counter-argue that may well be just more urban developments that undermine the natural, rural beauty that this country boasts.

That isn’t to say that building a garden city in Ebbsfleet isn’t a possibility; it does contain potential. Barkham claims with substance that there is probably not a better place to develop in the South East of England due to the potential size available. Already, there is also a number of currently-underutilised resources that would fit the role, such as a high-speed railway station. Not only this, the disused quarry where housing is proposed can potentially hold 10,000 new homes. With the Bluewater shopping centre close by, and coupled with talk in Government of financial promises, on the surface it looks like a no-brainer.

There are a number of other stumbling blocks to any potential development though. There is already a town in the proposed area: Swanscombe. Locals to this area are concerned of being erased from the map, with a “them and us” situation a likelihood, and they are even opposed to the name of Ebbsfleet, concerned about the loss of identity, being left behind by a garden city that may flourish, leaving Swanscombe impoverished, and perhaps taking the appearance of a “ghetto” in comparison.

This is a debate that runs much deeper. With a demand of six million houses needed over the next 30 years, are garden cities going to cut the mustard? Some take the stance that more radical thinking is needed – a more proactive solution. Others even think garden cities may be part of the problem, let alone the solution, to the housing crisis. And that isn’t the opinion of just anyone – a number of planning experts take this view. If you’re interested in reading this full article from The Guardian, please click here.

What’s your take on the housing crisis, and the part garden cities plays? It is obvious to me that the arguments run much deeper than many people anticipate. As far as I’m concerned, the housing crisis needs to be addressed with the utmost urgency, but the environment should not be affected. So maybe more radical thinking is needed. But a garden city does hold potential. Let us know what you think by leaving a comment in the section below.