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Policy Exchange - 40 new garden cities needed to meet housing demand, say Prize finalists

  • Final submissions for the £250,000 Wolfson Economics Prize published
  • Exhibition of entries to open on 4 September in London

As many as 40 new garden cities, each containing between 10,000 and 50,000 homes, should be built over the next 20 years if politicians are serious about solving Britain’s housing crisis, according to finalists for the 2014 Wolfson Economics Prize.

The new figures are revealed in the five final submissions being published today by the Prize secretariat, ahead of the announcement of the overall winner at next Wednesday 3rd September’s gala dinner at the Royal Institute of British Architects. Each finalist is hoping to win the £250,000 prize, the second biggest economics prize in the world after the Nobel Prize. All other finalists will receive a £10,000 prize.

The publication of the final five entries reveals that three of the five finalists independently suggest an ambitious programme of 30-40 new garden cities to meet future housing need. An extensive poll of over 6,000 people earlier in the year carried out by Populus showed widespread support for garden cities among the population, with 74% of those polled agreeing that garden cities are a good idea. Support was also strong among Conservative (80%) and UKIP (73%) voters. 68% of respondents also agreed that garden cities would protect more countryside from development than the alternatives.

The five finalists’ entries are summarised below: 

  • Planning and design consultancy Barton Willmore, supported by financial modelling from EC Harris and inputs from Pinsent Mason, Propernomics and others, suggest four garden city ‘types’, including the 'greening' of existing new towns, to deliver up to 40 new garden cities. Each garden city would deliver 40-50,000 homes built over the next 25 years, as well as 40-50,000 jobs. A Royal Commission, and Garden City Mayors heading up local Garden City Commissions, would be appointed to champion garden cities and find specific locations for development in the broad regions mapped in the submission. 35% of new homes would be affordable housing for those on low incomes.
  • David Rudlin (in collaboration with Dr Nick Falk, Pete Redman and Jon Rowland) argues for the near-doubling of existing large towns in line with garden city principles, to provide 86,000 new homes for 150,000 people built over 30-35 years. The entry imagines a fictional town called Uxcester to develop the concept, and applies that concept to Oxford (2011 population: 150,000) as a case study, showing how Oxford could rival the strategy adopted by Cambridge for growth and expansion. David argues that there may be as many as 40 cities in England that could be doubled in size in this way, such as York, Norwich, Stafford and Cheltenham. 20% of new homes would be affordable housing.
  • Wei Yang & Partners and Peter Freeman (in collaboration with Buro Happold, Shared Intelligence and Gardiner & Theobald) argue that an ‘arc’ (stretching from Southampton to Oxford to Cambridge to Felixstowe) is the best location for a first round of new garden cities; and uses a model of 10,000 homes (25,000 people) and 10,000 jobs to test a strategy for perhaps 30-40 garden cities built over 10-15 years. 30% of new homes would be affordable housing. The entry invites Local Authorities to ask Government to establish a locally-controlled Garden City Development Corporation, with compulsory purchase powers, using the existing New Towns Act 1981. The Development Corporation would establish a joint venture with a Master Developer to secure delivery at no cost to the Treasury.
  • Chris Blundell argues that a garden city should be developed south-east of Maidstone (Kent) to accommodate around 15,000 homes (about the size of Letchworth Garden City), coupled with major improvements to the local transport network including a new HS1 station. Delivery should be led by a Garden City Development Corporation with long term management of the garden city being undertaken by a Community Council, which would receive a share of the surplus arising from development. 40% of new homes would be affordable housing. The design and character of development should be developed through extensive community engagement, and reflect local character and distinctiveness. The new garden city would contribute up to £400m annually to the local economy during its construction and support the development of a new engineered homes manufacturing sector.
  • Shelter, the leading housing and homelessness charity (in collaboration with architects PRP, with advice from KPMG LLP, Laing O’Rourke plc and Legal & General) proposes a new garden city on the Hoo Peninsula in Medway, Kent. Commencing with a settlement of 15,000 homes (36,000 people – about the size of Letchworth Garden City) built over 15 years, Stoke Harbour would eventually grow into a garden city of 60,000 homes (144,000 people – slightly smaller than Oxford). The entry proposes a new model designed to attract massive private investment into the provision of high quality homes, jobs, services and infrastructure. New polling for Shelter in the submission shows that 55% of people in Medway support a new garden city on the Hoo Peninsula compared to just 33% who oppose. 37.5% of new homes would be affordable housing.

Founder of the Prize, Lord (Simon) Wolfson of Aspley Guise, said:

"We urgently need to build more houses in Britain. I am delighted that this year’s Wolfson Economics Prize has generated so many powerful and creative proposals for new garden cities. Together these entries present an overwhelming argument in favour of a new approach to solving our housing crisis."

Prize Director Miles Gibson added:

“Our expert finalists have produced a spectacular range of ideas in their final submissions. Their entries spurred us to create a fantastic exhibition about the Prize at The Building Centre. Trevor Osborne and his fellow judges now have the unenviable and difficult task of choosing an overall winner."

Press enquiries about the Prize, including requests for media places at the 3 September dinner, can be directed to John Higginson at Westbourne Communications Ltd, 07920 701 693.

Notes to Editors

1. At £250,000 the Wolfson Economics Prize is the second-biggest cash economics prize in the world, after the Nobel Prize. This year the prize seeks to find the best answer to the following question: “How would you deliver a new Garden City which is visionary, economically viable, and popular?”

2. The 2014 Prize topic was announced on 14 November 2013 and the entry deadline was 3 March 2014. Entrants were asked to provide an essay (‘Primary Submission’) of 10,000 words (plus non-technical summary of 1,000 words) on the Prize Question. Five finalists (and a selection of smaller prize winners) were announced on 4 June 2014 and the finalists were given until 11 August to refine their submissions. The winner will be announced on 3 September 2014 at a gala dinner and awards ceremony.

3. The Wolfson Economics Prize will hold an exhibition about the Prize at The Building Centre, London, supported by The Building Centre Trust, the Royal Town Planning Institute and Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation. The exhibition will run from 4 September to 29 September 2014 and will then be available to other interested organisations in a touring format. The Building Centre is a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to advancing innovation in the built environment. Since 1932 it has delivered an internationally recognised programme of events and exhibitions that inspire, inform, educate and campaign across the construction professions, while also raising awareness and delivering information to the general public.

4. The five finalists for the 2014 Prize, and the highlights of their submissions, are:

  • Chris Blundell is Director of Development and Regeneration at Golding Homes, a major affordable housing provider in Kent, but has submitted his entry in a personal capacity. He has over 20 years’ experience at Director level working for housing associations in London and the South East. He is a Fellow of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH). He holds an MA in Housing Policy, plus an MSc (Property Development and Investment) and an MBA from City University of Hong Kong where he spent six years as a senior lecturer in Housing and Public Administration. He is currently studying for an MSc in building conservation. Chris is a Trustee of the RICS Research Trust and an External Examiner to housing degree courses for De Montfort University and City University of Hong Kong. He is a former Board member of Newlon, a major Housing Association in London, and is Chair of Outward, who provide care and support for over 1,100 vulnerable adults in North and East London.
  • Established in 1936, Barton Willmore is the UK’s largest independent planning-led town-planning and design consultancy with 11 offices. They are engaged in projects across the UK and abroad, from new harbour facilities in Aberdeen to unlocking major residential schemes in Ebbsfleet; and are behind the design and planning of several new cities in China and the Middle East. Barton Willmore has driven the development of new communities, including Bicester Eco-town, the French EcoCities Programme, and our own New Market Towns concept. They seek to bring innovation and realism to our projects, elements crystallised in their entry. Barton Willmore’s prize submission was led by James Gross, Masterplanning Director and urban designer with 20 years of development experience in the UK and internationally. A wider Barton Willmore team was supported by a multi-disciplinary ‘think-tank’ of developers, landowners, former Government officials and specialists in fields of taxation, planning law and design.
  • David Rudlin’s entry draws on the work of Dr Nicholas Falk who for many years has been exploring the application continental models of housing development to the UK. Both are associated with URBED (Urbanism Environment Design), an urban design and research practice, founded by Nicholas Falk in the mid-1970s in Covent Garden and now constituted as a cooperative, based in Manchester and headed by David Rudlin. The essay also draws on the advice from others within URBED with additional contributions from Jon Rowland, Pete Redman and Joe Ravetz. David Rudlin is a planner by training and has been responsible for a number of large masterplans across the UK as well as research reports for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the Urban Task Force and the Government. Nicholas Falk is an urban economist who has been one of the UK's leading urban thinkers for 40 years. Together they co-authored the book ‘Sustainable Urban Neighbourhoods’ published by Routledge in 2009.
  • Shelter is England’s leading housing and homelessness charity. They help over three million people a year struggling with bad housing or homelessness, and campaign to prevent it in the first place. Whether they are offering expert advice to a family struggling to keep up with high rents, or hearing from frustrated young people losing hope of ever affording a stable home, the national housing shortage is the root cause of many of the issues we see every day. Shelter believe that they have developed a robust and workable policy programme for the next government that – with the necessary political will - can turn the tide on the housing shortage within a single parliament. As part of this programme of investment and reform to the land and house building markets, Shelter believe that developing new garden cities can help fill the gap between the homes we have and the homes we need. Toby Lloyd, Shelter’s Head of Policy, has used his years of experience designing house building strategies across the voluntary, public and private sectors, and the expertise of Shelter's corporate partners, to create the charity’s vision for delivering a new garden city.
  • Wei Yang & Partners is a London-based practice with an international portfolio of master planning, town planning, urban design and architectural projects. The company was founded in response to the diverse challenges of sustainable development worldwide and is driven by a commitment to promote design excellence, truly sustainable environments and liveable cities. In addition to its work in the UK, Wei Yang & Partners is also promoting the garden city concept in China. Managing Director Dr Wei Yang has been seconded by the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office and UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) as the Principal Planning Expert to the Chinese Ministry of Housing & Urban-Rural Development. Patricia Willoughby, the principal author, brings 30 years’ experience of working with development corporations and planning large scale mixed use developments. Peter Freeman founded property developers Argent in 1981 with brother Michael and has remained part of the business ever since. Argent has a reputation for delivering some of the best known mixed-use projects in the UK, including the regeneration of King’s Cross in London. Lee Shostak of Shared Intelligence, former Director of Planning at Milton Keynes Development Corporation, also brings delivery and economic development expertise. Buro Happold and Gardiner & Theobald contributed sustainable engineering and cost planning advice respectively.

5. The Prize entry from Dr Susan Parham (University of Hertfordshire) and others has been published today on the Wolfson Prize website, in recognition of its ideas on how to intensively engage local communities on garden city proposals.

6. Other features of the competition's first round (as announced on 4 June 2014) included:

  • A total of 279 entries to the competition. 
  • 20 entries from children under 16 years, including the youngest ever entrant to the Wolfson Economics Prize, Ewan Frearson, who is aged 6 and lives in Letchworth (Hertfordshire), the world’s first garden city. Along with Michael Fennell from London and Louis Upsall from Warminster (Wiltshire), both aged 12, Ewan receives a £50 prize. Louis wants to be an architect when he is older. Year 6 of St Anthony’s School, Hampstead, London, win a prize of £500 for their school for their entries. A selection of the school’s entries, plus Ewan, Michael and Louis’s entries, have been published on the Wolfson Economics Prize website. Photographs of these entrants are available from Westbourne Communications Ltd.
  • In keeping with the international profile of the Prize, entries were received from around the world, including Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore and the USA, as well as from all over the UK.
  • Entries were received from a wide variety of disciplines. Many entries were collaborative. We received entries from architects, designers, planners, house builders, land agents, promoters, surveyors, developers, economists, academics, students, ‘think tanks’, local authorities, children, retired civil servants, and ordinary members of the public.
  • 132 entrants (47%) suggested a target population for their proposed new city. The median settlement size proposed was 50,000 people – slightly larger than Welwyn Garden City.
  • 118 entrants (42%) of entrants illustratively identified a potential location for a new garden city.

7. Other prizes, known as ‘Light Bulb’ prizes, have been awarded to entrants whose entries address aspects of the Prize Question in particularly innovative, creative or otherwise outstanding ways. The fund for these Prizes is £10,000.

8. The full Rules for the competition, the entrants Information Booklet, and other material related to the Prize, is available at The Prize secretariat tweets from @WEP2014.

9. Details of the polling findings referred to were published in a separate press notice issued on Tuesday 3 June and are available on the Prize website at 

10. The Wolfson Prize was founded in 2011 by Lord (Simon) Wolfson of Aspley Guise. There has been one previous competition, on the topic of the Eurozone. The winner of the 2012 Prize was Roger Bootle with Capital Economics. The prize is sponsored by the Charles Wolfson Charitable Trust, a family charity, and managed by Policy Exchange, the independent London-based think tank.

11. Simon Wolfson, the Founder of the Wolfson Economics Prize, has been Chief Executive of Next plc since 2001, a company he joined as a Sales Assistant in 1991. Since his appointment as Chief Executive Next profits have more than doubled with earnings per share compounding at 16% per annum. Simon was created a Tory Peer in 2010. Simon's long standing interest in better housing, the social and economic benefits it can bring to the UK are born of years of experience trading the length and breadth of the UK.

12. Miles Gibson is Director of the Wolfson Economics Prize. He has taken a formal career break from the UK civil service to become the Prize Director for the Wolfson Economics Prize 2014. His civil service career spans more than a decade and includes senior roles in the Department for Communities and Local Government, HM Treasury, and the Cabinet Office. He has worked with and for most of the leading politicians of our generation in roles which have made him a recognised public policy expert in the areas of housing, land use, infrastructure and property taxation. He is a fully qualified town planner and also has a degree in architecture.

13. Trevor Osborne is Chair of the 2014 Wolfson Economics Prize judges and is one of Britain’s leading property developers. Through his current company, The Trevor Osborne Property Group Limited, he has built award-winning mixed-use, commercial, leisure and residential projects, often in historical buildings and often partnering with Councils and other public sector organisations. From 1991-92, Trevor was the President of the British Property Federation. From 1980-1982 he was the Leader of Wokingham District Council.

14. The four other Judges for the 2014 Prize are:

  • Professor Denise Bower is the Executive Director of the Major Projects Association (MPA) and the Director of the Engineering Project Academy (EPA) and Professor of Engineering Project Management at the University of Leeds. She is a member of Infrastructure UK's Infrastructure Client Group and its Cost Review Steering Group, chair of the Institution of Civil Engineer's (ICE) Capacity Building Panel, a member of the State of the Nation Infrastructure Scorecard steering group (also at the ICE), and an Associate Member of an All Party Parliamentary Group on Smart Cities. She was a member of Construction Industry Strategy Advisory Council which wrote Construction 2025 (the Government's industrial strategy for the construction sector). Denise has published widely in academic journals and authored and co-authored key text books on the subject of engineering project management.
  • David Cowans is Group Chief Executive of Places for People and has 30 years’ extensive experience of housing, urban regeneration, mixed-use development, financial management, and of leading strategic change in both large and small organisations. He is a Chartered Director of the Institute of Directors, a Fellow of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, Chartered Member of the Institute of Housing, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and a Member of The Institute of Residential Property Management.
  • Pascal Mittermaier is the Director of Sustainability EMEA and Project Director, Elephant & Castle Regeneration at Lend Lease. From 2002-2007 he was the President of Swiss healthcare company Roche, based in Montreal and from 2007-2010 CEO of Roche in Milan.
  • Tony Pidgley CBE is the Chairman of The Berkeley Group. He left school at 15 to form his own company in haulage and plant hire. At 21, he sold his business to Crest Homes and became a Building Director reporting to their Managing Director, Jim Farrer. In 1975, Tony and Jim left to form Berkeley Homes. The company enjoyed considerable growth over the following 10 years. It floated on the Unlisted Securities Market in 1984, and then gained a full listing in 1985 as The Berkeley Group plc.
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