Wolfson Economics Prize 2014

In 2014 URBED was awarded the 2014 Wolfson Prize. The study posed the question; ‘How would you deliver a new garden city which is visionary, economically viable, and popular’. 

A list of articles we have been featured in is provided below:

Article Links:

Independent - 3rd September 2014

Architects Journal - 3rd Spetember 2014 (subscription may be required)

Financial Times - 3rd September 2014 (subscription may be required)

Telegraph - 3rd September 2014

Guardian - 4th September 2014

BBC News - 4th September 2014

Place North West - 4th September 2014

BD Online - 4th September 2014 (subscription may be required)

Planning Resource - 4th September 2014 (subscription may be required)

Landscape Institute - 4th September 2014

Housing Excellence - 4th September 2014

Citymetric - 4th September 2014

Places for People

Sunday Times - 7th September 2014 (subscription may be required)

Arch Daily - 8th September 2014

The Planner - 9th September 2014

BD Online - 9th September 2014 (subscription may be required)

Co-operative News - 19th September

Global Construction Review - Chartered Institute of  Building 24th September 2014

TCPA - 25th September 2014

New Start Magazine - 25th September 2014

Guardian - 2nd October 2014

RIBA Journal - 20th October 2014

BBC Radio 4 World At One - 12th November (available for 4 weeks)

RTPI Centenery Blog - 3rd December 2014

Financial Times - 16th January 2015 (subscription may be required)

The Economist - 17th Janurary 2015

The Observer: Housing - 14th March 2015



Policy Exchange - 3rd September

RTPI - 4th September

RIBA - 4th September



Independent - 4th September - Brandon Lewis Response

Guardian - 8th September - Richard Rogers Response


URBED’s submission was produced by David Rudlin with Dr Nicholas Falk, drawing on the full range of skills in the URBED office and friends such as Jon Rowland (Jon Rowland Urban Design) Pete Redman, Managing Director, Policy and Research at TradeRisks Ltd (financial advisors on housing and infrastructure  and Joe Ravetz (Co-Director of the Centre for Urban and Regional Ecology, University of Manchester) . The prize attracted more than 279 entries so we are delighted to have reached the final shortlist of five. We will spend the next couple of months developing our essay in more detail for the second round submission. In order not to become mired in the detailed politics and practicalities of a particular place, we based our submission on the imaginary city of Uxcester (pronounced uss-ter). Uxcester is a lovely place, with two millennia of history, a complex local government structure and an engaged and articulate local community. There are at least a score of  places like Uxcester in the UK. We will be deciding over the next few days whether we use the second stage submission to apply the model to a real place.We would welcome your ideas. This link below will take you to our entry and the text below is taken from our executive summary… Uxcester Garden City Our essay describes a plan to create a garden city of almost 400,000 people by doubling the size of an existing city. This is based on a real city, if not one that we identify. We have called it Uxcester and created it from an amalgam of at least six other cities, all places with populations nearing 200,000, with long histories, established institutions and settled communities. 


Our essay draws upon URBED’s experience over many years designing neighbourhoods and working to improve the quality of development in the UK. Through this debate we have come to the fundamental conclusion that it is probably impossible to create a Garden City of any scale from scratch in the current economic climate. The first part of the essay describes why this is and why we have concluded that it is better to graft a Garden City onto the strong root-stock of an existing city. This is the basis for our answers to the competition questions:  

Vision:  We illustrate how the city of Uxcester could double its size by adding three substantial urban extensions each housing around 50,000 people. These lie within a zone 10km from the city centre and are configured as triangles with only the point touching the edge of the settlement. The farmland around the city is currently not accessible to the public and of little ecological value. The concept is that for every hectare of development another will be given back to the city as accessible public space, forests, lakes country parks etc… Each of these satellite extensions would be served by a tram or Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) running from the existing mainline station on disused lines and then switching to on-street running to loop through the new neighbourhoods. The housing would be developed incrementally to create space for small developers and self-builders alongside the volume housebuilders in a process that recreates the way that the great estates were built in London.   

Popularity: Extending an existing city solves some problems but creates others. The greatest of these will be the task of winning over the existing community, which is likely to be articulate and honed by years of experience resisting development. We suggest a ‘Social Contract’ that would address the concerns of this community. Rather than a future spent fighting years of ill-planned development, the Garden City would offer the prospect of a clear 40 year vision that accommodates development while minimising its impact. The satellite extensions are planned to minimise their visual impact, to create a green grid of accessible open space and to generate investment in new transport infrastructure and city centre facilities to benefit the whole of the community. The aim is to re-frame the argument by getting cities to bid to be designated as a Garden City as they currently bid for City of Culture. 

Economic Viability and Governance:  In the absence of large scale subsidy the only solution to the economics of the Garden City is what Ebenezer Howard called the ‘unearned increment’. We are proposing a deal for landowners in which they trade a small chance of securing a housing consent on their land, for a guarantee of receiving existing use value plus substantial compensation and a financial stake in the Garden City Trust. We have assumed that the land will be brought at an average cost of £350,000 per hectare, 20 times its current agricultural value but only 15% of its value as housing land. The economics of the scheme are based on these differentials. We have assumed that, by extending an existing town rather than building from scratch we can reduce the infrastructure bill from £80,000 to £60,000 per unit. Even assuming that half of the land acquired is used as open space, this still generates sufficient value to fund this level of infrastructure spending. By selling the sites to developers at a fixed price and providing the infrastructure collectively, a market incentive will be created to invest in the quality of the housing.   

The process would be managed by the Garden City Trust that would be owned jointly by the local councils, central government, the local community and land owners – and their stakes would have a tradable capital value. The Garden City Trust would be vested with the land, would commission masterplanning work and then use the equity of the land to raise a Bond to fund the initial investment in infrastructure. Development would take place on a rolling programme with the early land receipts being reinvested. The experience in Holland suggests that such a rolling programme can procure infrastructure investment three times greater that the value of the initial bond.    We describe the seven ages of the Garden City Trust from its conception and birth through its infancy and adolescence to maturity, middle age and eventually retirement. Over time the role of the trust will evolve as it moves from the development stage to the management phase where it will be structured to enable the local community to take on the stewardship of their neighbourhoods. Rising values over the life of the project will allow initial investments to be repaid. This is not a new model, it is the modern day equivalent of the great estates like Grosvenor or The Bournville Village Trust.  Our model addresses the weaknesses in the system that have made it so difficult to match the quality of the schemes we admire on the continent. We have debated as a team whether we are being too ambitious with the size of the settlement we are proposing. However nationally we need to increase housing production by the equivalent of one Milton Keynes every year. We therefore need bold strokes to radically increase the rate at which we are building and Uxcester provides a model to do just this. 


In April 2015 URBED, along with the finalists for last year's Wolfson Economics Prize, are urging politicians to take the politics out of settlements. They argue that a Royal Commision should decide in an impartial way where new settlements should be located, and new development bodies should have the power to culsorarily purchase the necessary land. You can read the full statement here.


Associated documents

Wolfson Economics Prize 2014