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 416.

    The only acceptable way to add housing in the UK was reported on this BBC site a few days ago. Redevelop the suburbs. Buying up area blocks and then replacing with better suited smaller units in much higher quantities. This built next to a river is idiocy, and criminal if any inch of green field is used. Commuting is not practical any more! Costs too much. Like HS2 insanity. Get jobs to the north.

  • rate this

    Comment number 415.

    a Garden City. How quaint. How 1950's. City of the future. Duh this is 2014. We are a country with an uncontrolled population due to open borders. For goodness sake come up with a modern solution to address today's issues.

  • rate this

    Comment number 414.

    How about just improving the towns and cities we have and moving work away from the South East?

  • rate this

    Comment number 413.

    Builders are owned by who? Ministers and their associates and family should not profit from their decisions! New houses need financing and most new owners will need to borrow to buy. How can these new builds improve the UK financial balance and not its debt to overseas lenders? They certainly will further diminish the quality of life of existing residents - more traffic jams, pollution, noise.

  • rate this

    Comment number 412.

    4. Mrcwhite
    "In my opinion, we don't need more homes we need less people"


    The implication of your post is very unpleasant, but every time I show why, my post is removed. Maybe the editor doesn't like attention drawn to his/her apparently very dubious taste.

  • rate this

    Comment number 411.

    405. Wibble

    "So concrete over yet more green belt land. Well done what a great plan.... NOT"

    You can relax, Ebbsfleet (or Swanscombe as I still call it) most certainly is not Green Belt, most of the land is derelict industrial land.

  • rate this

    Comment number 410.

    EricTViking - I agree with you wholeheartedly.

    Being down in the west country at present, there are folk around here who are rightfully distasteful towards the south-east and our London-centric media, political & business elite. The English folk in Somerset weren't as important as Cameron's middle class tory chums along the dear Thames when that flooded eh? Makes me sick.

  • rate this

    Comment number 409.

    This is barely more than an average-sized town.

    What the country needs are new cities - where people can live (work AND play) - not new commuter hubs, which will merely exacerbate road congestion, and which will be a ghost town during the day.

  • rate this

    Comment number 408.

    #390.Kent Rock..Yes,the truth always hurts,and every single person posting on this thread lives in a house that is built on what was once green belt land.

  • Comment number 407.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 406.

    As an industry expert, we don't need as many new housing as being reported to built on "so called green field land". We needed to use what we got better, including council housing. Many Local Plans are just not viable, especially where some business parks have never been fully utilised; these & brown field land should be developed first & that includes in villages having a few extra houses too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 405.

    So concrete over yet more green belt land. Well done what a great plan.... NOT

  • rate this

    Comment number 404.

    This country is over populated already, we need to get it down, this country is becoming more of a toilet by the day!

  • rate this

    Comment number 403.

    Since our population is forever growing this would seem like a very good idea. We are, however, running out of land space to build on so a new garden city is sorely needed. That only helps in the short term, Labour however, in the long term would bring in more and more immigrants.

  • rate this

    Comment number 402.

    It is about time that the UK started to grow other parts of the Kingdom and not just the immediate vicinity of b***dy London. How about investing in the South West for a change? I understand our friends in the North could do with a hand too (though they do have a decent number of big cities already). Scotland, Wales, NI maybe? It's not all about London For Flips Sake.

  • rate this

    Comment number 401.

    Just as there is a plentiful stream of cheap labour from immigrants, there is equally a plentiful stream of wealthier foreigners coming in. These new homes will not be for the poor.
    Ordinary Brits will be able to afford to go live in the poorer parts of Romania, leaving this green and pleasant land for their betters.
    Plenty of space in Romania.
    I guess that`s the plan long term.

  • rate this

    Comment number 400.

    More homes are needed generally across the country, but here we have just yet more focus on London and the south east.

    If Scotland becomes independent, I can see major parts of England - certainly the north - either wanting to join Scotland or to become independent themselves.

  • rate this

    Comment number 399.

    Nice to see the government focus on the rest of the UK is being well maintained.

  • rate this

    Comment number 398.

    What's causing that 'Pressure' ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 397.

    Why the need for such dramatic home-building when our population is virtually static? (56M in 1972 62M in 2012).

    Ebbsfleet has long been marked for this, hence the huge station in the middle of nowhere. Building in a quarry and beside the river, given the floods, all seems a bit reckless. Oh well, more jobs for foreign labour and more low cost trash accommodation for the desperate, I suppose


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