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Government fund to speed up garden town development

The need for Britain to build new homes has been one of the big political issues of the 21st century, with the government supporting a range of measures to tackle the problem. Reviving the notion of the garden city has been one of them.

It was in the 19th century that the pioneering town planner Ebenezer Howard first developed the concept, putting it into action at Letchworth in Hertfordshire. This spacious settlement with its many gardens and open spaces provided a radical alternative to the crowded, polluted and often squalid conditions that millions of Londoners had to endure. Nearby, Welwyn Garden City soon followed.

In effect, what the garden city concept did was to create a model of leafy suburbia that the cities themselves gradually adopted. In many cases this happened because actual garden cities - and villages built along the same theoretical lines - were absorbed as city boundaries extended outwards. Prime examples of this include the Hampstead Garden Suburb in north London and Bournville, which had been developed by the Cadbury family for their chocolate factory workers to live in decades before it was engulfed by the expansion of Birmingham. 

Moving into the 21st century, the garden city notion found support in the higher echelons of government, with Nick Clegg and George Osborne among members of the coalition that came to power in 2010 who were big fans of the concept. Ebbsfleet in Kent was chosen to be the first in a generation of new garden cities, and several more have followed, with miniaturised garden towns and garden villages now on the agenda.

As well as providing new homes, all this means plenty of construction jobs, as well as lots of demand for insulation fitters. However, with ten new towns and 14 villages planned, ensuring they get built on time has been vital to help meet wider housebuilding targets. This has prompted the announcement this week of a £2.5 million fund by communities secretary Sajid Javid to help kick-start developments in nine of the garden towns. This will ensure swifter progress in building new properties. 

Outlining the plan at the Conservative Party conference, he said: "Locally-led garden towns have enormous potential to deliver the homes that communities need. This new funding will help support the construction of more than 155,000 homes in nine places across the country.

"New communities not only deliver homes, but also bring new jobs and facilities and a big boost to local economies."

The largest lump sum will go to the North Essex Garden Communities project, which will see 43,000 new properties. This scheme consists of not one but three garden towns, located at Braintree and to the east and west of Colchester. The second largest cash figure will be £500,000 for Bicester, which is a smaller development of 13,000 homes close to the Graven Hill scheme, where another potential part of the solution to Britain's housing problems - self building - will take place at a 188-hectare site. 

Other developments will be built at Didcot, Basingstoke, Otterpool Park (Shepway, Kent), Aylesbury, Taunton, Harlow-Gilston and North Northamptonshire. The North Northamptonshire scheme would, like the North Essex plan, involve multiple extensions to existing towns, these being village-sized schemes at Kettering, Corby and two sites on the edge of Wellingborough.

Garden towns are also being developed elsewhere in Britain, with an example being the 6,000-home Plasdwr development on the western outskirts of Cardiff that gained planning permission earlier this year.