20th February 2023

Are garden towns the answer to housing shortages?

Garden towns could be answer to housing shortage – but SMEs are key to delivery

As the UK struggles to keep pace with housing demand, some have suggested garden towns and villages may be the answer to the problem.

Garden towns are satellite communities built surrounding a central city, separated by greenbelts – a new settlement offering high-quality affordable housing while enhancing the natural environment.

Former Brexit Secretary David Davis MP has written a recent blog outlining his view on garden towns and how he sees them as an effective way to deliver more homes across the UK.

Luke Simmons, Managing Director of Cora, has backed Mr Davis’ position, adding that SMEs should play a pivotal role in building these new communities.

Here, Luke explains his view on Mr Davis’ proposals.

Housing infrastructure

From a housing perspective, Mr Davis’ view on garden towns is positive for housing delivery as it addresses the sensitive issues of infrastructure and amenities connected to housing.

A criticism of many new developments is that they put local infrastructure under strain, under-delivering on amenities a community needs to thrive.

However, as garden towns and villages are designed from the ground up, you can develop infrastructure that better fulfils the needs of the community straight from the start.

From doctors surgeries and schools, to road infrastructure and community facilities, it’s all baked into the blueprints.

It also allows planners to look at renewable power and heating sources, biodiversity, schooling, training – everything can be linked better in terms of design.

Garden towns pay for themselves by delivering new communities with the amenities and infrastructure they need, as well as helping to ease the pressure on services in nearby communities.

Green belt

I think much of the resistance against garden towns comes from a misunderstanding of the green belt.

In areas earmarked for developments, homes are often built on arable farming land adjoining a previous development, which, from a biodiversity point of view, contributes very little to the environment.

Farming uses chemicals designed to keep animals and pests in check and the land itself does little to reduce carbon.

Designing and building sustainable housing schemes can actually provide a net gain to biodiversity, creating spaces that promote and encourage wildlife to make a home there too.

The importance of SMEs

Although Mr Davis touches upon the importance of SMEs to delivering garden towns, I don’t think he quite sees the full potential.

To me, the negative side to garden towns is that that they are large scale developments which, at the moment, would be watered down in terms of who can deliver them.

This means only large developers that can afford to take on big projects like this tend to deliver them.

What I would say is missing from David’s view is not only should SMEs be used ‘wherever possible’, garden towns would in fact be better delivered by SMEs.

SMEs are more likely to be able to deliver smaller parcels quicker than big developers doing a town phase by phase. The work can be divided up so it is delivered in parcels, collaboratively, by smaller developers.

It will also act as a boost to the SME sector, which has been ignored over decades of poor housekeeping by the government.

It would enable more local people to be employed in terms of the SME market, boost connections between smaller businesses in the area and reinvigorate the sector, which is essential in the delivery of the good quality, sustainable housing we need.

SMEs like Cora want to deliver excellent homes and create communities people can be proud of, working in partnership with local organisations, businesses and charities along the way.

On the whole, I think Mr Davis is onto something – if SMEs can take a greater role in their delivery, garden towns and villages could be a good way of boosting housing supply, improving local infrastructure and amenities and creating more biodiversity.

For more on Cora and its commitment to sustainability, visit