Building Garden Communities Conference

One of the strongest themes to come out of the keynote speeches and panel discussions at the BGC Conference 2024, was that people are at the heart of the matter when we talk about building new communities. Yes, we need attractive, well designed, and well-built places, but not for the sake of it. Rather it's to improve the quality of life for the people living there.

It’s why Lord Matthew Taylor made the case that stewardship and sustainability, which the audience voted for as the most important thing to consider when planning and delivering new garden communities, can be trumped by the community facilities. The open spaces, pubs, cafes and the local shops, enable vibrant communities to grow. They're what make people enjoy living in a place. 

But delivering these large and small schemes alike is difficult and often seen as a burden by those leading the development. There are worries that projects will be rushed when the planning authority are obliged to aim for early delivery of a development.

Early delivery of the mixed-use elements of a project doesn't fit easily into most development appraisals, certainly not the housebuilder model of build out and be off. Too often the argument is made that the shops and leisure facilities need a large amount of residents to make them viable to build, and so should come later and not at the start, while being someone else’s responsibility. 

But there's another, better way and you can see it done at places like Beaulieu in Chelmsford and Houlton in Rugby, where the early provision of local shops, cafes and community amenities have brought great benefits to the pioneering first residents and quickly come to be used by the existing neighbouring residents. In fact, these help draw in people from surrounding neighbourhoods and bind the new places with the established ones, helping to dissolve some of the fear which inherently comes with proposals of new development.

Doing it differently is dependent on the delivery and investment model changing. Lord Taylor’s argument is that we need to build capacity in the master developer led or landowner led models of large-scale development, where there's a longer-term commitment to the placemaking, establishing and nurturing the growth of a new community. This model sees stewardship during the development, and the people coming to live in it, as important and maybe more so than the long-term place keeping where the term stewardship is usually applied. It requires those who can be patient in seeing the return on their investment. It also sees the integration of the building of new homes into the programme of building shops and leisure within the wider building of place. 

The stewardship team at Mills & Reeve, led by Anna Aldous, will be happy to meet with you to talk about the concept of stewardship embodied in three words: process, people, place.

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Every piece of content we create is correct on the date it’s published but please don’t rely on it as legal advice. If you’d like to speak to us about your own legal requirements, please contact one of our expert lawyers.

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