Reality check #2: EDC plan a series of ‘Garden Villages’. Read about the implications for Penrith.
The Masterplan claims that it will ‘improve the vitality of Penrith town centre’ and a whole section is devoted to ‘Developing & Protecting Penrith Town Centre’.
We don’t think it will do anything to Develop and Protect Penrith Town Centre. Instead it will create an alternative town which will rival Penrith, but only 2.5 miles away. This is because it will be a ‘Garden Village’ or a series of them and form part of the Government Garden Village programme.
The Masterplan never mentions that it is really a softening up exercise designed to seek Public Support for an Application for Garden Village status from the Government. That’s the only way this could ever be financed. Here is a link to the Government announcement of the next round of funding: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/james-brokenshire-plans-increase-in-garden-towns.
The CEO of EDC (Eden District Council) told KPS (Keep Penrith Special) in an unguarded moment that EDC intends to apply for this money in the Spring of 2019. This has since been confirmed by answers to us posted by EDC on our Facebook page @keeppenrithspecial.
Our first complaint is that not being honest about their intentions on this is simply wrong. A fair consultation must tell the members of the public who read it what they are being consulted about and why and what the next steps would be. EDC’s Consultation simply fails to do so. Nowhere does it say, ‘We want to consult you about a Garden Village application that we want to make.’ It doesn’t say when that application will be made and what the implications would be.
Indeed, deliberately leaving out this information is in our opinion positively misleading and we explain why below.
What is a Garden Village and what is a Garden Town?
You can find the answer in the link if you want to read it for yourself, but we will put it simply in points below. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment data/file/734145/Garden_Communities_Prospectus.pdf
Basically they are new-build settlements built with some help and support from the Government and developed with a locally supported vision.
Criteria that need to be met:
1. A Garden Town is 10,000 plus homes, a Garden Village is 1,500 to 10,000 homes. All proposals are supposed to be “transformation” – in plain English that means to change things for ever.
2. They must be “largely self sustaining” – in other words have their own shops – and “built at a scale which supports the necessary infrastructure to allow the community to function self-sufficiently on a day to day basis, with the capacity for future growth to meet evolving housing and economic needs”.
3. They must have a “Clear Identity” with “an attractive and functioning centre and public realm”.
4. They must be well designed and offer a range of high-quality distinctive homes.
5. They must have “Strong local vision and engagement… and be designed and executed with the engagement and involvement of the existing local community.”
6. Transport options “should include the promotion of public transport, walking, and cycling so settlements are easy to navigate and facilitate simple and sustainable access to jobs, education and services”.
7. There must be “generous, accessible and good quality green space”.
Garden Villages have been turned down if they don’t meet these criteria (see below).
How do these criteria stack up against the Masterplan?
- Yes, it is a new build settlement which will only be built if it is part of the Garden Village programme.
- Will Penrith and Eden ever be the same again? No, it won’t, so it’s clearly a transformation.
- It is sold as a development which will enhance trade for the shops of Penrith. Now we find it is in fact going to be a rival town on our doorstep with its own shops and facilities.
- All the money is going to go to build a new attractive town centre and amenities up there. That’s not how this is being sold in the Masterplan.
- Sounds quite smart and posh. We wonder if the affordable homes will actually be affordable.
- Strong local engagement. Well, they have got that but not in favour of the new town in their Masterplan.
- Transport around there might be suitable for cyclists and buses. It’s just getting up and down from there that is a problem for walkers, cyclists, lorries and cars alike.
- Well, there might be generous good quality green space if there was full access to all of the Beacon, but a large part is going to be high-end homes or a holiday cabin complex. Somehow we doubt if the Beacon will be part of the Garden Village proposal. Why put it in together with phase 1 which is quite a way from the Beacon?
Reasons Why Garden Villages are turned down:
The good news is that Garden Village schemes have been rejected because they don’t meet the criteria. Perhaps the most relevant and interesting rejection by an inspector was Lodge Farm Garden Village, which was turned down because:
- “Whilst some day to day journeys to the local shops, surgery and primary school could be made on foot within the village, trips to secondary school, employment locations and main shopping and leisure destinations off-site would be largely car dependent. As such I am not persuaded it is a location which could be made sustainable in transport terms.”
- “The area also has a distinctive settlement pattern characterised by small scale villages and hamlets. The development of a new settlement of 1,500 dwellings in this setting, even with the inclusion of landscaping and green space, would cause significant harm to the intrinsic beauty and character of the countryside in this part of the borough.”
- It was not a location that “could be made sustainable in transport terms”.
- It was “not apparent that Lodge Farm would support existing rural communities to any significant extent”.
Further Reading Links
The links below are also informative and will help you understand what really is under the covers of this Masterplan.