Small is Beautiful

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CAUSE has released new analysis which concludes that new settlements of over 2,000 homes, built over longer than a 10-year period, suffer from scale diseconomies which mean that they will be less viable than smaller ones.

The analysis has implications for the North Essex Garden Communities project, and more widely, for the Government’s Garden Towns & Villages programme.

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The report, called “Small is Beautiful”[1], analyses the largest of England’s currently proposed garden communities, the 24,000-home West Tey, between Colchester and Braintree.

The analysis demonstrates that settlements like West Tey are too big to succeed:  the costs of controlling the land for the period of the build, which in West Tey’s case is over 50 years, are extraordinarily high – up to £4bn.  In the case of the North Essex Garden Communities, the councils have admitted to the ‘spectacular error’ of neglecting to include finance costs on land.

This report complements CAUSE’s other viability work which demonstrates the importance of locating housing near to jobs and under-used infrastructure.  The infrastructure needs of a new standalone commuter settlement located near to over-stretched roads and railways cannot be met through land value capture and will require Government subsidy of at least £1.8 billion.

William Sunnucks, author of the report, said, “The report demonstrates what we have suspected for some time – size matters, and no-one is looking properly at the numbers.  Our analysis provides a formula to suggest what ‘right size’ actually is. Our conclusions are important for other new settlements being planned.    We hope that Government will take a very careful look at the issues we raise and move towards well connected garden villages rather than big new towns.”



CAUSE[2] believes that by providing betterment and affordable homes in the right places, and involving local communities in decision-making, plan-making would become quicker and less antagonistic, with better results. CAUSE research demonstrates that, the larger the settlement, particularly if it is stand-alone, the greater the infrastructure requirement.  The infrastructure needs of a garden community of the scale of West Tey cannot be met through land value capture, and will require Government investment upwards of £1bn. We have recently signed up to a set of principles called “A Better Way”, in conjunction with a number of other action groups.

Press contacts:   Rosie Pearson; William Sunnucks


[2] Campaign Against Urban Sprawl in Essex