David Ames tells us more about his Garden City summer holidays

Russell Kirby's picture

Our Head of Strategic Planning David Ames has had quite a busy summer, meeting with a delegation from China, visiting York and even taking time during his holiday to visit one of Florida’s garden city developments. David tells us more about these visits and how they impact our thinking on our own garden city.

China planning

Through our continued partnership with the China Design Centre and the TCPA, we were delighted to host a second group of visitors from Greentown and Bluetown Development Companies, based in Hangzhou.

Earlier this summer a group of 30 visitors spent time in Letchworth learning how stewardship models and long-term land value capture have been applied using Ebenezer Howard’s principles. They followed their colleagues who visited Letchworth earlier in the year.  

Over two days, the group took part in sessions where they explored in detail the financial model that has been used in Letchworth for well over 100 years.  They then visited our charitable services and venues, including Broadway Cinema, Theatre and Gallery, Standalone Farm and the Ernest Gardiner Treatment Centre, to get a better understanding of how this model can have a genuine impact on the quality of life for local communities.

Read more about the visit from the delegation

Visit to York

Following the Chinese visit, my colleagues and I went to York to visit the Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust (JRHT), a group with strong links to the early years of the Garden City Movement and developer of New Earswick, two miles north of the city. The development was the brainchild of Joseph Rowntree, founder of the Rowntree Cocoa factory. As was the case with other philanthropic industrialists (such as the Cadbury family at Bournville, the Levers at Port Sunlight and Titus Salt at Saltaire), Rowntree was appalled at the conditions his employees had to endure in the slums of York and had the vision of building a garden village a mile from his factory.

This led to him acquiring 150 acres to develop his model village, with the aim of a ‘rightly ordered and self-governing community’. Stylistically, the way their master plan is presented is the same as Parker and Unwin’s Letchworth plan and it was fascinating to be able to talk to their team and learn from a developer that shares many of our values.

We also had the chance to visit the JRHT’s current development at Derwenthorpe, which is also a satellite town of York being an extension of the village of Osbaldwick.

The development here has been designed to be tenure blind and therefore private and Housing Association should not be easily distinguished.

The new settlement is highly sustainable and includes its own energy system (CHP plant) and highly efficient buildings, with the design of the scheme aiming to be a modern interpretation of the New Earswick scheme.

Read more about New Earswick and Derwenthorpe

A Disney inspired Garden City?

In August I jetted across the pond to Florida for a bit of rest and relaxation. While I was there, I couldn’t pass up a trip to a Garden City development called Celebration, not far from Disneyworld. Along with Garden City ideals, inspiration also came from Disney’s view of settlement planning - a combination which I have to admit filled me with some trepidation.

However, from an urban design perspective, it is well designed, with high quality public realm, an abundance of open space and good quality buildings within a respectful scale. It was interesting to visit Celebration after the visit to York, as this development was so different, having been built in the 1990s, but still maintained the same key principles of the Garden City Movement.

Read more about the Celebration development

Overall, these visits proved to be hugely insightful and provided food for thought when looking at our own Garden City, both now and in the future.

You can find out more about any of David’s visits by going to the Garden Cities Institute website, along with other updates from our academic centre looking at the heritage of Letchworth and the influence of the Garden City