Built today, treasured tomorrow – a garden city guide to looking after places in the long term

We know that in Britain – and particularly in England – we have to build many more new homes to meet housing need. However, the question is not just whether we build, but whether we have the determination to ensure that we build high-quality communities that will stand the test of time.

This is why leading housing and planning charity, the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) have launched, ‘Built today, treasured tomorrow – a good practice guide to long term stewardship models’, inspired by the garden city principles of community rights, ownership and asset management to create the beautiful, inclusive and sustainable communities of the future.

Diane Smith, TCPA Interim CEX said:

“Many new developments start with good intentions and provide community facilities such as a beautiful park or a community centre, but, all too often, 20 years later that park or community centre has become a derelict eyesore – a liability rather than an asset.

“As the momentum around a new generation of garden cities grows, we can do no better than learn from their approach to long term stewardship, enabling councils and delivery partners to rebuild trust in the development process, offering people a better quality of life from new development by allowing for the highest sustainability standards, economies of scale, and better use of infrastructure.”

Community assets such as parks and community centres are vital elements of high-quality, attractive places, but management arrangements and long-term funding to maintain such assets are often considered only as after-thoughts to new developments.

In an age of austerity, how can we ensure that the new parks, community centres, arts centres and other assets of great value to local people created within new developments are well looked after in perpetuity?

This guide provides answers to that question. It sets out tried-and-tested methods of securing a good long-term future for community assets such as parks, community buildings, health centres, local energy sources, and community transport.

With the use of illustrative case studies, such as the local management organisation in North West Bicester and the East London Community Land Trust, it explains how imaginative approaches to funding and management can empower local communities to take control or have a say in the running of local assets.

The TCPA is very grateful for the generous support of the GVA, Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation, Mills & Reeve, Places for People, and The Land Trust towards this initiative. The guide will be launched in Parliament today with Mark Pawsey MP, member of the Communities and Local Government select committee.

Gerry Hughes, National Head of Planning, Development and Regeneration GVA, said:

“Ideally Garden Cities should be self –funding and sustainable entities. That means funding and maintaining all the essential infrastructure through the development process. To be able to deliver this requires creativity and a degree of financial innovation, harnessing value generated to not only enable the capital investment required, but also to meet on-going maintenance and revenue implications. This report on long term stewardship by the TCPA is a valuable addition to this debate, assembling good practice from a wide variety of places.”

Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation Chief Executive, John Lewis said:

“We are sure Garden Cities can be part of the solution to the chronic housing shortage in the UK. They are all about creating great places, where people are happy to live, balancing the best of town and country living. And the essence of Letchworth, and other Garden Cities, is that the land is held in trust for the community, so we can invest the proceeds to meet their needs, and ensure community involvement in decisions about priorities. We believe that is the key to Garden Cities’ lasting appeal.”

Christine de Ferrars Green, a partner at leading national law firm Mills & Reeve, said:

“As planning lawyers we are often involved in major new developments at inception. Understanding the different perspectives of developers, landowners, house builders, registered providers and local authorities, our work is to match the many and various legal models for estate management with the aspirations and vision that our clients have for their individual projects.

“We bring to this guide an experience and expertise in creating appropriate solutions which will assure the long-term success of those development projects, to ensure they don’t quickly lose their shine after the scaffolding comes down and residents move in. We are delighted to be supporting the TCPA with this exciting initiative, which demonstrates that even in challenging economic times we can all take some simple steps to ensure a lasting legacy on all future developments.”

Mary Parsons, Places for People group director said:

“Places for people has always believed in the importance of effective long term local governance and creating the right infrastructure to enable communities to thrive, which is why we were delighted to support the TCPA in this key piece of work.”

Euan Hall, Chief Executive of The Land Trust said:

“Identifying long-term funding for on-going management of developments is absolutely critical if we are to build and retain great places where people want to live and work. At The Land Trust we know from experience that a relatively small amount of money identified upfront for on-going management can do wonders for people and places, such as providing opportunities for improving health, education and training opportunities and community cohesion, as well as reducing crime and anti-social behaviour.”

The TCPA, which began as the Garden Cities Association, has been leading a reinvigorated campaign for a new generation of Garden Cities and over the last two years with support voiced from the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and the Leader of the Labour Party.

The TCPA will be holding a conference in London, ‘Time to make Garden Cities a reality’ on 25th March, with a key note address from Shadow Communities and Local Government Secretary, the Rt Hon Hilary Benn MP.