By David Cowans, Chief Executive of Places for
I've been privileged to be one of the judges for this year's
Wolfson Economics Prize, which has sought to generate ideas for a
new garden city that could help solve our housing crisis.
The competition gave entrants the chance to work without rules
or boundaries, allowing them to bring fresh thinking and innovative
ideas to the table. And they didn't disappoint. All of the entries
showed originality, creativity and enthusiasm, which were truly
Last night (3rd September), David Rudlin of URBED was announced
the winner, picking up £250,000 for his submission which argues for
the near-doubling of existing large towns in line with garden city
principles. He has developed a concept based on a fictional town
called Uxcester, which he applies to Oxford as a case study,
showing how it could rival the strategy adopted by Cambridge for
growth and expansion.
The personal and human nature of the vision was particularly
impressive, with the proposal offering improvements to residents in
existing cities in terms of better services, facilities and
transport links plus quality homes for their children who
otherwise, may be forced out into other locations.
That notion of creating better places, was a common theme
running through all of the submissions and is one that I believe is
particularly important to the success of a garden city and helping
to address our housing shortage.
At Places for People, we have spent the last 15 years developing
our business into a placemaking organisation. We started as an
affordable housing provider, but recognised we needed to make
changes to meet the needs of our customers. Our tenants told us
that they didn't just want a house - they wanted a place they would
be proud to call home, for their kids to live nearby and where they
could reach their full potential in every aspect of their
So, we now seek to provide aspirational homes in inspirational
places. We look at the whole neighbourhood, whether an existing one
or a new one and do whatever we can to make it a quality place.
That means offering choice and flexibility of tenure and making
sure that the things needed to make a place thrive are readily
available such as shops, schools, transport links, job
opportunities, affordable childcare, and leisure facilities.
The extent of our housing shortage means that we will have to
push forward with the garden cities and new towns approach. As
highlighted by David Rudlin and his team, this can be done
sensitively and to the benefit of local residents. It not just
about investing in bricks and mortar, but investing in entire
communities and infrastructure. That holistic approach is at the
heart of everything we do and we know it works. Ultimately, it's
the key to creating sustainable communities, addressing our housing
challenges and making a lasting difference.
04 September 2014