‘High rents and prices’, ‘foul air’, ‘excessive hours’, ‘closing out of nature’. These phrases might well define some of the urban issues of today, but they were, in fact, written in 1898 by the urban planner Ebenezer Howard to describe the problems in the cities of his time. His solution for the UK was to combine the benefits of country living with those of city living with the creation of ‘garden cities’.
It is clear many of the urban problems of today, including lack of housing affordability and increasing levels of pollution, match those that Garden Cities were conceived to solve. And there has been a revival of interest in this concept as a result, with the Government finding the political space to publish a sustained series of policies on new settlements in a way not seen for 40 years: namely Garden Villages (2016), Garden Towns (2017), and now Garden Communities (2018). The notable absence of the word ‘city’ presumably aims to avoid alarming populations close to where such developments might occur. There has also, partly for the same reason, been a firm emphasis on proposals for new settlements to be ‘locally led’.