Osborne backs Ebbsfleet garden city

17 Mar 14
A new garden city in Kent is to be developed as part of a £6.2bn plan to boost housebuilding, set to be announced in this week’s Budget.

By Richard Johnstone | 17 March 2014

A new garden city in Kent is to be developed as part of a £6.2bn plan to boost housebuilding, set to be announced in this week’s Budget.

Chancellor George Osborne yesterday said the proposed development of a new town in Ebbsfleet, which is intended to provide up to 15,000 new homes, would receive £200m of public investment to build the infrastructure needed. The area has long been identified for development, but to accelerate construction, the government will create a new body – a Garden City Development Corporation – to overcome planning obstacles to the scheme and co-ordinate investment plans.

Ebbsfleet is in an ideal place for housing expansions, the chancellor said, as it is on the High Speed 1 rail line, and therefore only 19 minutes from central London. Construction of the new homes will be on existing brownfield land including former industrial sites and a former quarry, he added.

Responding to the announcement, Local Government Association chair Sir Merrick Cockell said that although authorities supported the government's aim to build more houses, democratically accountable councils must be at the forefront of delivering local growth.

The creation of a separate quango is unnecessary, he said today.

'Residents will be concerned that such a body, unelected and accountable to central government, could have the power to make local decisions about investment, planning, development and possibly even local transport.

'In addition, it is not clear where any financial benefit of growth would go and whether it would remain in the local area for the benefit of local people and businesses. These decisions should be taken at the local level by councils working with their residents, LEPs and other local partners.'

The Budget on Wednesday will also confirm a £6bn extension of the element of the Help to Buy scheme that sees the government take an equity stake in new developments. The Treasury has predicted that extended government backing for new construction will help 120,000 more households purchase a new-build home under the programme, which was initially launched in the 2013 Budget with a £3.5bn capital budget.

The programme has already helped over 25,000 households buy or reserve a new-build home, the government stated, but the National Audit Office has said that it was not yet possible to determine if the scheme has represented value for money. The Help to Buy scheme also includes a separate £130bn fund to underwrite mortgages for any home purchase.


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