Calls to use Welwyn Garden City as inspiration for new towns

TOWN planning experts came to WGC to argue the cause for more garden cities in the UK.

Garden Cities: Back to the Future was a special lecture organised by the Welwyn Garden Heritage Trust and the WGC Society, celebrating the 100th anniversary of the publication of Raymond Unwin’s influential pamphlet, Nothing Gained By Overcrowding!

Speakers on the night were Town and Country Planning Association chief executive Kate Henderson and Dr Patrick Clarke, technical director at URS Infrastructure.

Discussing a busy 12 months for the TCPA, Ms Henderson told the audience: “It’s a really exciting time to be a planner.”

She said David Cameron’s pre-budget speech in March – in which he used WGC as an example of what can be achieved in terms of new build towns – was a clear indication that the coalition Government is open to the idea of better, more sustainable living.

“This [David Cameron’s speech] is the first time Garden Cities have been mentioned in planning policy for about four decades.

“Places like Welwyn and Letchworth [Garden Cities] have inspired generations of planners to build, create and deliver better places to live in.

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“We’ve got to go back to being radical and thinking we can do better.”

But some audience members remained sceptical. Several were concerned about the need to build new garden cities on Green Belt land, while others argued the cost of building was too great.

But ultimately, the final word seemed to go to Ursula Howard – great-granddaughter of WGC founder Ebenezer.

“We think how easy it must have been [for Ebenezer Howard] not to have to deal with all the planning and Government in a way that might not be possible now,” she said.

“But he was an innovator – he found ways round things. He would have been breaking the mould. He would have found co-operative ways of funding.

“If he was here today, I believe every garden city would have been carbon neutral. He would have gone for it.

“If we do have a little moment then we have to go for it too in a particular way.”

Her comments drew loud applause from the 170-strong crowd.