Ed Miliband has been singing the praises of New Towns in tonight’s Standard, saying a Labour government would use these developments to help solve London’s housing crisis. He writes:
‘A key plank will be creating new towns in sustainable locations where people want to live, just like earlier generations did in places such as Stevenage and Milton Keynes. Labour will kick-start the next generation of new towns and garden cities around the capital to ease the pressure on London.’
Although he doesn’t say it, it’s a reasonably safe bet that the Labour leader is thinking of Ebbsfleet when he talks about a sustainable location where people want to live. That’s where Lord Adonis, who is leading Labour’s growth review, has set his sights for a new development.
Last week the Labour peer launched a collection of essays on New Towns which he has edited. Go East: unlocking the potential of the Thames Estuary follows Adonis’ year-long review of development in the Thames Gateway area. It includes an essay on lessons from Milton Keynes (incidentally, this week’s Spectator includes praise for that particular new town), and says:
‘A large New Town project should be started in the Thames estuary in order to kick-start major development and to demonstrate what is possible when delivery is properly organised and overseen. This is our most far-reaching recommendation.
‘Ebbsfleet, between Dartford and Gravesend in north Kent, appears to us the prime candidate. Ebbsfleet has three characteristics which make it ideal for immediate designation as a New Town, if it were given a powerful Development Corporation on the Milton Keynes model to take forward development using the staged, build-under-license approach outlined above.’
Those three characteristics are its location within travelling distance of London and the fact that it has a high-speed railway station, existing planning permission on the site for a huge new development which has reached a stalemate that Adonis and colleagues believe a New Town development corporation could resolve, and plans for a Paramount theme park nearby which ‘could create upwards of 25,000 jobs’.
One reason Adonis is so keen on New Towns is that the peak of housebuilding in this country came at the same time as the first wave of these developments. He sees a 21st century wave of New Towns in areas where local people are content with the idea of new development as a nifty way of approaching the housing crisis.
Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.