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Approval for first new town since Milton Keynes

The deficiencies of Milton Keynes have been well chronicled by Roger Scruton among others. While that example is not encouraging it is still surprising that approval for another new town has taken so long. Anyway a proposal for a Northstowe, a new town in Cambridgeshire on the site of the RAF Oakington airfield has been approved by South Cambridgeshire District Council.

Looking at the Ministry of Defence assets register (last updated 2007 incidentally) it indicated that the site was in the process of being sold for £58.65 million to Gallagher Estates. Sounds as if Gallagher got a bargain. I realise it costs a bit of money to actually build the the 10,000 homes and the supporting infrastructure - but for the land to cost under £6,000 per property seems modest.

On the other hand there was the uncertainty of planning permission be rejected and the delay of several years - that having already paid for a site before it produces any revenue. if outline planning permission had first been secured and the delays in the system were reduced then the revenue to the Government from some asset sales would be greatly increased. There is also the requirement to include some "affordable" (ie subsidised) housing. Much the most effective way to provide affordable housing in this country would be to unlock the market and allow the supply to increase.

it does look as though it will be much more attractive than the soulless modernism of Milton Keynes with its flat roofs and confusing street grid.

The developers promise:

Residents will be well connected via a clear network of streets and spaces that prioritise walking, cycling and public transport. High tech communication networks will facilitate new forms of social and economic interaction.

They say:

Strong design features reflecting characteristics of towns in the locality will pervade Northstowe. For example, there will be a wide mix of architectural styles.

However in my experience these vague undertakings of good design of buildings mean rather less than prejudices of the architect commissioned to deliver it.


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