Wolfson Prize: we still need a proper strategy to provide more housing while protecting the countryside

5th Jun 2014

The Campaign to Protect Rural England warned today that the Wolfson Prize shortlist overlooks the main challenges in meeting  the nation’s housing needs. Any new garden cities should be properly planned with local agreement, a high proportion of affordable housing, and built on brownfield land before greenfield or Green Belt sites are considered.  

Shaun Spiers, CPRE’s Chief Executive, said: ‘We will study the shortlisted entries with interest. The Wolfson Prize is certainly an interesting exercise. At present the  Government’s planning approach, which too often involves imposing large developments on local communities through planning appeals, is not working. Garden cities may be part of the solution to our housing crisis, but only if they are locally supported, help regenerate our existing cities and provide significant amounts of genuinely affordable housing.  We need major policy improvements to meet these objectives and without, plans for new towns and garden cities will achieve very little.’

CPRE’s key requirements for meeting our housing needs, set out in the Charter to save our countryside, are:

  • don't sacrifice our countryside – three of the shortlisted entries focus on greenfield development when enough brownfield land remains available for over 1.5 million new homes. Disappointingly the proposal for a new garden city in the Black Country is only described as ‘interesting’ rather than shortlisted. There is concern about short-circuiting proper tests to find suitable locations through the planning process and also undermining  brownfield regeneration;
  • a fair say for local communities - there is a big risk of repeating the mistakes of the last Government's ‘eco-towns’ programme, i.e. a top down process of selecting sites for major development without local democratic input or support from local authorities;
  • more housing, but of high quality and in the right places. Are these proposals serious about providing the housing that is affordable, well-designed and environmentally sustainable?