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 516.

    506.Crafty Count
    Do you mean B2L - a perfectly legal arrangement entered in to by many Limited Companys and Housing Associations - or M2L (mortgage to let) which is what amateur Landlords tend to do?
    There is a need for rental accommodation in all countries. There are professional Landlords who help to provide this need, are you suggesting these need to be stopped from trading?

  • rate this

    Comment number 515.

    NIMLE's (Little England'rs)
    How many of you actually "Live" on a council estate?
    How many actually grew up on a council estate?
    What was the 1st thing you did when you received a Uni Education and a job?? You moved OFF the Estate!
    I would not want to live anywhere near your sort- it would be a ghetto of BNP/UKIP's.
    I choose to have neighbours from the other 200 nations than live next to you!

  • rate this

    Comment number 514.

    New housing developments have a tiny affect upon affordability and availability of houses, compared to existing housing stock. Also at the rate of development to fulfill demand, we will change this country to the bad, particularly if the uk government thinks it needs to keep up with immigrant housing need. What we need is population and immigration control. Tories gaining political points here!

  • rate this

    Comment number 513.

    As per usual.The beloved South East gets the investment.And why not?After all,the rest of the country doesn't need any investment now,does it?
    The argument about local services such as rail links is won.After all,nowhere else gets the necessary investment to make such plans a realistic proposition.It's the same old song,"It's the Sarf wot gets the lolly..."

  • rate this

    Comment number 512.

    I spent a year working just outside London, Commuting down from Sheffield. Double council tax,utility standing charges it cost more than I earnt to rent a flat. After 6 months just lived out the car. There's work in London and People up north Willing do do it, But they cannot afford to go down south for work now.Jobs to locals and foreignors. Move firms up North for cheaper offices and housing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 511.

    Another opportunity to keep inflating the housing bubble, while giving people who have worked hard all their lives no opportunities, unless it's paying £100k for a shoebox, or extortionate rent to a slumlord from Qatar.

  • rate this

    Comment number 510.

    great location to commute into EU. but not if Tories have their idiotic referendum
    and into London and another town to give assistance to intime of flooding! superb planning.
    If this country is to improve the economy we need to create jobs in areas of need not in already overcrowded London commuter belt.

  • rate this

    Comment number 509.

    Does that mean we will need to build more McDonald's and KFC.s ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 508.

    Spend the money on a big sign saying "Full up"

  • rate this

    Comment number 507.

    486.Tio Terry
    4 Minutes ago
    Sorry, not true.

    If you are a European Citizen you can buy property in any EU member state.
    EU citizens are here legally.

    I'm talking about absent landlord investors in China etc.

    Try buying a home in South America & other countries while not being a legal resident

    You can't!

  • rate this

    Comment number 506.

    As said before - KEEP THE BUY TO LET CROWD AWAY FROM THESE HOUSES please. They buy up houses which reduces the available houses which increases the price which makes people have to rent. While their houses increase in value and they get rent for doing virtually nothing. There should be a tax on second or more homes - with a law saying that they cannot pass the tax to tenants in increased rent.

  • rate this

    Comment number 505.

    We don't have a housing shortage we just have an immigrant overload.

  • rate this

    Comment number 504.

    Concrete the entire southeast to allow the unfettered growth of London to go unabated. Maybe when it takes people half an hour to cross the street owing to congestion the penny will drop enough-is-enough

  • rate this

    Comment number 503.

    It would be a good idea if these houses were all equipped with a low kilowatt electrical system. In the South of France this is common.
    The occupiers have to balance their use of electricity, but the yearly tariff is smaller than more powerful systems. If we build new cities we could limit energy use this way.

  • rate this

    Comment number 502.

    People talking about population growth as the cause are right but of course but most blame odd families having lots of kids and miss the bigger issue of people living much longer (but think about your parents and argue against life-sustaining medicines) and the lesser one of people living in houses much bigger than their needs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 501.

    Why is this new town being built in Kent, where there is already a shortage of water?
    Somerset, the North-West, Yorkshire, and even Scotland, are crying out for housing, and we have water! (Too much, in some places!)

  • rate this

    Comment number 500.

    "494. We need 1000 new towns that size just to house recent immigrants.! Only people legally resident here should be allowed to buy homes."

    I think you'd find it difficult to buy a house if you're not legally resident. Is this story being used as yet another opportunity to mouth off about immigrants, when in fact the real story here is the growth in the number of indigenous households?

  • rate this

    Comment number 499.

    Perhaps if the major London firms were to decentralise there would be no need to concrete over the south of England. Immigrants, because that is who the houses are for, could then be housed cheaper elsewhere.
    We really have to control the waste of our Green Field sites, curb immigration, oh, and take note of the supposed Localism Bill.

  • rate this

    Comment number 498.

    I wondered where the workers at the Boris Island airport were going to live - all is now clear!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 497.

    Sealed brown envelopes (don't forget your bid) now being accepted at 11 Downing Street.

    Poor people need not apply.


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