15,000-home garden city to be built at Ebbsfleet

Ebbsfleet International Station Ebbsfleet already has a station on the high-speed rail line from London to continental Europe

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A garden city with an initial 15,000 homes will be built at Ebbsfleet in Kent, George Osborne has announced.

The chancellor told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show the site was chosen because there was "fantastic" infrastructure and it was in south-east England where pressure on housing has been high.

He said local people wanted to see regeneration of the area.

Labour suggested an existing plan had been re-announced. The Lib Dems said it was a "massive Tory U-turn".

Speaking ahead of his Budget on Wednesday, Mr Osborne said the government's Help to Buy scheme would also be extended until the end of the decade.

'Cuts through obstacles'

Explaining the decision to choose Ebbsfleet rather than richer parts of the country, Mr Osborne said: "In Ebbsfleet there is the land available, there is fantastic infrastructure with the high speed line.

"It's on the river, it's in the south-east of England where a lot of the housing pressure has been.

"And crucially you've got local communities and local MPs who support the idea.

George Osborne said the government's initial plan was to build 15,000 new homes in Ebbsfleet

"We're going to create an urban development corporation so we're going to create the instrument that allows this kind of thing to go ahead and cuts through a lot of the obstacles that often happen when you want to build these homes.

"There are already some homes being built on the site, so progress was under way, but it was on a much, much smaller scale and with much less ambition than what I'm setting out today."

Ebbsfleet has a stop on the high-speed rail line to the Channel Tunnel.

'Proper infrastructure'

Gareth Johnson, Conservative MP for Dartford, said he "very much welcomed" the chancellor's announcement.

"The Ebbsfleet Valley has been a source of great frustration for many years," he said.

Why garden cities are a thorny issue

Fifteen thousand new homes accommodating tens of thousands of people is a good start.

That the government will get fully behind Ebbsfleet as a new garden city will mean it should actually get delivered.

But the Town and Country Planning Association says Britain needs dozens of new garden cities and they won't be as easy as Ebbsfleet to get built.

With planning permission for 8,000 homes already in the bag, its close access to Bluewater shopping centre, the A2 and M25 as well as sitting on the fastest rail track in the country, Ebbsfleet is the low-hanging fruit.

How easy would it be to secure approval for such a scheme in politically well-connected Oxfordshire, or Cumbria with its scenic beauty or anywhere in the busy M62 corridor in the North of England?

Not that Labour can scoff. They recommended Ebbsfleet and other garden cities long ago while in government but failed to follow through.

The reality is that unless the law changes, to allow major construction projects to speed through in the national interest without serious consultation of local communities, building new homes on a vast scale will remain a thorny issue which no political party - wishing to get elected - will grasp.

"Despite the efforts of the council and central government, we've never got the development we want to see in the area."

He said attempts had been made to build new homes at Ebbsfleet since 1996.

Planning permission was granted for about 6,000 new homes at Eastern Quarry, near Ebbsleet station, in 2007, but nothing was done, he added.

"For whatever reason a developer has not been forthcoming and the recession didn't help," Mr Johnson said.

"What this announcement does is enable the proper infrastructure to be put in place."

London mayor Boris Johnson tweeted that the plans were "great news" for London, for jobs, growth and the UK economy.

In 2012, government ministers, three Kent councils and developer Land Securities agreed plans for about 22,600 new homes to be built in Kent Thameside in Ebbsfleet over 20 years.

Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps said the development had been stuck on the drawing board for "a whole decade".

Three hundred homes have been built since planning permission was first granted.

Shadow chancellor Ed Balls said it was "too little too late".

He said Labour wanted "an objective of more than 200,000 new homes a year by the end of the decade".

"Labour is saying we should match Help to Buy with Help to Build," he said.

"What the chancellor has done today is re-announce an old policy. It's not enough and he should do more."

'Suppressed report'

Tim Farron, president of the Liberal Democrats, said the announcement would "barely scratch the surface" of the 300,000 homes a year that were needed.

He previously accused the Conservatives of suppressing a report recommending new garden cities.

The Conservatives denied any delay and said plans would be outlined for 2015.

Sir Merrick Cockell, chairman of the Local Government Association, said the creation of a separate quango to oversee the development was unnecessary.

He said residents would be concerned that the unelected body could have the power to make local decisions about investment, planning and transport.

A Treasury spokesman said the homes announced in 2012 related to all the housing in the Dartford area.

He said the plans announced by the chancellor would cover three core sites - Eastern Quarry, Ebbsfleet station and Swanscombe peninsula, which had a capacity for 15,000 homes.

The concept of garden cities was developed by the liberal social reformer Sir Ebenezer Howard. In his book "To-morrow: A Peaceful Path to Real Reform", published in 1898, he proposed cities of 30,000 people that were self-sufficient and ringed by an agricultural belt.

Garden cities were a response to overcrowding and squalid living conditions in cities following the Industrial Revolution. They were intended to combine the best of urban life with access to nature.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 176.

    Just what the south east needs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 175.

    Some developer built about 4000 affordable homes just south of Reading a decade or so ago. They were unaffordable and had no gardens to speak of. Crammed into a few acres and now already much more unaffordable. What is wrong with the rest of the country, George? Too many reds, greens, yellows and purples in the voting system for you? Or are these for the influx of EU jobseekers?

  • rate this

    Comment number 174.

    No need for this if we control immigration - oh hold on a minute we can't (and in many cases won't)!

  • rate this

    Comment number 173.

    ;) Fracking Garden City it'll be known as.

    I suspect it'll be out of the price range of anyone outside a management level job with a decent size company.

    Basically he's building the posh twits a gated eco community, the rest of the scum outside can go die of starvation for all he cares, he has his dream home. No doubt Channel 4 lined up to do a Grand Designs special and all ;) watch this space.

  • rate this

    Comment number 172.

    This is a perfect solution to a serious issue that may help those without homes to buy them. More of these schemes please!

    Population growth is needed - its today's young people/immigrants that are going to pay for the pensions of the whining contributors on this site!

  • rate this

    Comment number 171.

    Garden City my arse. The Ebbsfleet area has been being redeveloped for years. Lots of new housing there and much more already planned. It has nothing to do with Gidiot's pronouncements. There's an election coming up, isn't there?

  • rate this

    Comment number 170.

    In my opinion, the problem is the OXBRIDGE educated club of businessmen and politicians, who lookout only for each other. These businessmen want to run their businesses as cheaply as possible (read low labor costs) while politicians, who increasingly are businessmen themselves, need funds for elections. The only losers in this vicious circle are the common hardworking middle class.

  • rate this

    Comment number 169.

    You are only ten years behind schedule George.

    The strain on the public services, ammenities and infrastructure have already taken their toll.

    Will it be for normal working populous or is it exclusively for Etonians?

  • rate this

    Comment number 168.

    And the 'North' misses out once again!

  • rate this

    Comment number 167.

    Yet more of our green and pleasant land being concreted over, Doesn't the government not realise that THE MAXIMUM OCCUPANCY OF THIS ISLAND has been reached!....and then some.

  • rate this

    Comment number 166.

    How will the current lines of communication (road, rail etc) cope. How will the services (water, sewage, drains) cope with more pressure of a system already creaking. No real thought again by planners who continue to be intent on breaking the support network with their ridiculous ideas.

  • rate this

    Comment number 165.

    This government all over. We've had a couple of weeks for the goldfish mentality of the populace of this land to forget the floods of the last couple of months, we can now talk of building 15000 homes on what form the end of the last ice has been the flood plain of the tidal river Thames and the river Ebbsfleet. Buy one of these houses and the only guarantee you will get is it will be flooded.

  • rate this

    Comment number 164.

    Help, we are drowning now under the load of Traffic trying to get north of the QE11 bridge. I can't imagine what it is going to be like just trying to get around once the new town is built, Please think more carefully, we cant breath now for vehicle fumes. Come on Collation Party about making the North South divide a littler fairer?

  • rate this

    Comment number 163.

    To 152

    I live in the north and like it as it is, Don,t want it like the over crowed south.

  • rate this

    Comment number 162.

    I t thought we all lived in the uk ,so hear we have it again all in the south east do they not know there are many parts of the that would like to have some of this .

  • rate this

    Comment number 161.

    Building houses 'on the river'. Great new idea. No reason why it couldn't work.

  • rate this

    Comment number 160.


    "The immigration argument doesn't hold water,there are almost as many people leaving the UK as those that come here"

    I don't think so. We have had high net immigration for many years, currently over 200,000. This is the main driver in our increasing population and the reason why we have a housing crisis.

  • rate this

    Comment number 159.

    Why has it taken the government 4 years to realise there is a housing crisis?
    Will it be a city of affordable housing or council houses, so that the poor can be moved out of London?
    What about the housing crisis in the rest of the country?

  • rate this

    Comment number 158.

    The construction sector reaping the rewards of their Tory party donations.

  • rate this

    Comment number 157.

    To be called Byetolettington..


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