1. ITV Report

New Towns coming to a village near you?

Building developments in Trumpington, South Cambridgeshire Credit: ITV

Can we build our way out of the South East's housing shortage?

The coalition government clearly hopes so, since they plan to build three new garden cities of 15,000 homes each, in order to address housing need. The Deputy Prime Minister has suggested these would be built across the heart of England between Cambridge and Oxford.

This puts the west of the Anglia region firmly in the running. With it's popularity with London commuters, the east of the region is also a candidate, and the government is now calling on local areas to volunteer sites for development.

Milton Keynes: Britains most famous new town Credit: ITV

But is there really the political will or public consensus for such large scale building today, as there was when the famous post-war towns of Harlow, Stevenage and Milton Keynes were built?

Milton Keynes still prides itself on building affordable homes, but the rate of building has slowed - they are currently building new council houses for the first time in 15 years.

The council believe it would be very hard for the governement to build an entire new town or garden city in the East today.

"When Milton Keynes was proposed as a new town there were very few objections to it, and in fact the public inquiry took less than a week, whereas these days I think it would be very different no matter where you chose as a site.

Perhaps the reason is that back when the new town programme started, just after the end of the second world war, the experience of being in housing need was very widespread"

– David Hackforth, Milton Keynes Council
Council houses going up in Milton Keynes Credit: ITV

Yet the pressure to address today's housing need is growing.

Across the East, councils are drawing up drafts of housing plans for the next 5 to 20 years after being instructed by the government to build new homes. The District Council in Uttlesford plan to build around 530 homes a year until 2031, in order to meet government targets.

This is far from popular in the Essex district. Almost every house in Thaxted has a 'No to Development' sign up in the window.

"Within our local plan, any development of any size is expected to have 40 percent affordable housing, those can be for outright rent or for part buy, and we're hoping that by doing that as many people as possible can continue to live here who want to.

We have many people in Saffron Walden for instance, whose families have lived here for many years and whose children growing up with children of their own, welcome the opportunity to stay here."

– Cllr Susan Barker, Uttlesford District Council

In Waterbeach, just north of Cambridge, residents are opposing plans to build a new town of around ten thousand homes, just shy of the government requirement of 15,000 homes for a Garden City.

Such large scale building would transform the village into a town the size of Ely.

Thaxted has made its feelings on development plain Credit: ITV

"It's very large, it's going to swamp our village, we believe it's going to make us a commuter belt around here and we want to very much keep our rural community of Waterbeach alive.

It's not Nimbyism, I think we're quite happy for the brownfield site of the barracks to be built on, but we don't want to become part of a big commuter town of ten thousand houses."

– Jane Williams, Waterbeach resident
Residents in Waterbeach are fighting plans to turn their village into a new town. Credit: ITV

The district council say local people across South Cambridgeshire have told them that they would prefer homes to be focused in new towns, rather than spread out over lots of villages. The plans for Waterbeach will go before the planning inspectorate in October.

This autumn is also the time when local areas can volunteer to build one of the three new garden cities which the coalition government wants to create. With its history of building new towns the East might look like an obvious candidate.

But times have changed, and with attitudes towards home building so polarised, it's hard to imagine any new town going up without a huge fight.

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