Yesterday, the UK Government announced plans for 3 new garden towns and 14 new "garden villages" across England, expanding a plan that already includes 7 previously announced garden towns. Explaining the concept of the garden villages, the Department for Communities and Local Government described settlements of 1,500 to 10,000 homes, saying that together the 14 locations have the potential to deliver 48,000 new houses. In order to expedite the creation of these new settlements, the government has set aside a fund of £6 million (US$7.4 million), which housebuilders will be permitted to use in order to accelerate development at the sites.
However, the architectural community in the UK has mocked the proposals and the government's use of language, highlighting what appears to be a poor understanding of Ebenezer Howard's Garden Cities concept. Many have also pointed out that the plans are relatively meager in a country that, by many estimates, is falling hundreds of thousands of new homes short of the number needed every year.
We've gone from Garden Cities to Garden Villages. https://t.co/bDaecwtj6k Make no small plans etc.— Future Cities Salon (@fcp_salon) January 2, 2017
Speaking with ArchDaily, Charles Holland—co-founder of Ordinary Architecture and a former member of FAT—said: "I think the idea of new villages is a very interesting and important one which I have been researching at the University of Brighton. As part of an answer to the current housing crisis, I think new villages offer a plausible model that could reflect changing work patterns and the role of digital culture. This could facilitate a sort of reverse modernity or rural futurism—a migration from urban to rural."
However, regarding the UK government's announcement, Holland was less positive: "As for the 'garden' bit, well that seems like a lazy, unthreatening way to evoke places like Letchworth minus the radical model of communal land ownership that was an essential part of Ebeneezer Howard's original vision."
The garden prefix will not gussy up the same inadequate housing policy, served up in smaller and more lukewarm portions every year— Matthew Whitfield (@mwhitfield80) January 2, 2017
Others were also pointed out how the original socialist intentions of the Garden City movement were at odds with the government's plans, with writer Gillian Darley referring to an article from 2012 which criticized a previous misuse of the term by the government:
The UK Government will build 3 garden towns and 14 "garden villages" across England. What do you think of the plans? https://t.co/xrhdu11v5L— ArchDaily (@ArchDaily) January 2, 2017