Wisbech Garden Town

Wisbech: walking and cycling and public transport routes
Wisbech: walking and cycling and public transport routes

In June 2015 David Rudlin of URBED was asked to give a presentation to a meeting of the Wisbech 2020 group. This developed over a few years into a proposal for the development of a 10,000 home garden town that attracted a multi-million pound funding package from the Cambridge Combined authority. 

During that initial presentation David drew on his winning entry for the Wolfson Economics Prize to talk about the issues faced by towns like Wisbech, and the strategies that had been used elsewhere to bring about regeneration.  Subsequently, Fenland District Council and Cambridgeshire County Council together with Anglian Water and Foster Developments commissioned URBED to explore the Garden Town concept in more detail. The aim was to create a bold vision for Wisbech using the potential reopening of its railway as a spur to a radical regeneration of the town including significant house building.

This turned into a plan for an additional 10,000 homes around Wisbech in addition to the 3,550 homes already allocated in the local plan. The study explored a number of options for how these new homes could be added to Wisbech. More importantly it created an economic model, working with Pete Redman of TradeRisks (who collaborated on the Wolfson Prize). This showed how all of the infrastructure could be funded, including the reopening of the town’s rail link from a modest uplift in land values. The railway would put Wisbech within commuting distance of Cambridge, transforming the local housing market.

The Garden Town is a radical initiative to expand the population of the town and transform its housing offer, to help the existing community while attracting new people and investment. The presentation that David gave at the end of the study concluded with the suggestion that ‘great towns are not those that resist change but those that embrace it, that attract people, absorb and integrate them and use their energy as a force for regeneration’.

Since that time URBED have worked with the Dutch engineers Royal Haskoning to explore the flood defence implications of the garden town development. We have also recently completed a study as part of Mott MacDonald’s GRIP 3 study on the rail link looking at locations for a new station.

For URBED this has been an opportunity to explore the ideas that we put forward in our Wolfson Economics Prize essay. These include not just the concept of expanding existing towns rather than building freestanding garden villages, but also ideas for land value capture, new forms of housing development such as custom build and self-build and of course implementation vehicles such as Garden Town Foundations or Development Corporations.
 

 

 

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