Back to Basics. The Good Life. New Ruralism.
There’s been something in the ether for a while now; a call to times gone by, a time for community and cohesion.
People are looking to the past in an almost nostalgic reverence for outdoor pursuits, clean air, and good living. Health and wellbeing are top of the agenda with Mental Health particularly in the public domain, as well as mindfulness.
Apps and podcasts on the subject have seen record subscriptions as people try to mentally and physically de clutter from a society overloaded by consumerism. We are subjected to over 3,000 messages a day, be it marketing messages or a constant stream of notifications on our phones and the call of the wild has never been so strong.
Putting down roots
Garden Communities have long been a tradition for a benchmark in how to develop or engender a community. The Garden City vision was originated by Ebenezer Howard in 1898 as part of his Garden Cities of Tomorrow publication.
The ethos fist came to fruition in Letchworth and Welwyn Garden Cities, as well as Hampstead Garden Suburb. These places all combined the best of town and country living to create healthy homes and vibrant communities for working people. At the heart of the vision are holistically planned new settlements, an enhanced natural environment, high-quality affordable housing and locally accessible jobs.
Developers are now focusing on the planning and design of schemes, where the vision has been heavily influenced by the Garden City Ideals.
The key to the success of the schemes will be to implement a strategy for the management of the open spaces and community facilities, whilst marketing should be a mix of lifestyle attributes, with features and benefits to the consumer coupled with pure placemaking.
Best in class
We recently organised a round table lunch on this very subject with a host of developers, leaders within Garden Communities across the country, as well as representatives from Homes England and the Departments of Communities and Local Government.
This informative event allowed the attendees to discuss how the Garden Communities of tomorrow are in fact put into place some thirty years ahead of time. The difficulty to predict and future proof infrastructure was a main concern, as well as securing the funding to allow this infrastructure to be put into place at the outset.
The crystal ball
So often with placemaking projects, we are working with a vision of things to come, painting a picture for the consumer of how the community will unfold, often years after they move in. Many of these larger Garden Communities recognise the vital importance of getting roads, schools, amenities, transport links and outdoor spaces set up and running straight away. This allows the place to feel real, tangible and build a reputation that creates awareness and desire.
From there it should really be the case of ‘build it and they will come’…
The crystal ball can only look so far however and it was discussed how the custodians of a Garden Community cannot second-guess technology. Planning for a massive community ten years ago would not have been able to foresee the explosion in Smart Phone usage, the transition from 3, to 4, to 5G-phone technology, so what should we be planning for now in terms of technological infrastructure. I’ve only just got access to the Internet on my commuter train...!
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (HCLG) has issued a new prospectus in August 2018 on Garden Communities and it was in part, the aims of the Government Agencies that our Guest Speaker Fionnuala Lennon from the Homes & Communities Agency imparted at the lunch.
‘Everyone deserves a decent, affordable and secure place to call home. Today’s average house price is eight times the average income. Young people are half as likely as their parents to own their own home. We must have well-planned, well-designed, locally-led garden communities…in meeting our housing needs.’
The current programme supports 23 places that will deliver 200k homes by 2050. What’s more HCLG is inviting bids for ambitious proposals for even more garden communities at scale. Exciting times! These communities are the antithesis of a dormitory. They exude life; they promote sustainability, growth, entrepreneurship and a sense of community at their heart.
Communities by degrees
A Garden Town is defined as 10k homes and above. A garden Village is 1,500 – 10k homes and all promote innovation in design, character and amenities, predominantly within brownfield land. They should offer opportunities for significant long-term housing and economic growth in the local area and fit within wider geographically growth strategies.
As ever these sorts of proposals and plans are only as strong as the local leadership and the will and support of the local populous.
It’s interesting the HCLG now talks in terms of place-making. It’s not just marketing waffle aimed to raise the design price! It’s a tangible, strategic approach to create a clear identity, promote the sustainable benefits of the community, as well as the holistic design for not just the homes, but the other places people will meet, work, play and learn. It should also respect and reflect the local natural and historic environment. Health and green spaces are paramount, as are transport links, stewardship arrangements and future proofing to technological change.
All of these ingredients form the narrative for a Garden Community, no matter its size or location. They form the features and benefits of why a person should strive to live in a place like this, even if they do have to live on a building site of a while, particular if they are a pioneer.
Help at Hand
Homes England is positioning itself in terms of funding assistance, sharing of best practice, facilitators in negotiation and general delivery advise and support. Had to get a plug in there somewhere!
Experience is Key
In terms of marketing, we have worked on a variety of Garden Communities in a short space of time, having been invited by Crest Nicholson and Redrow in particular to work on varying facets of their communities.
For example, Redrow has commissioned a series of placemaking videos to promote each scheme, as well as position themselves as a market leader in this field (or brownfield if you will).
Within the marketing of Tadpole Garden Village for Crest Nicholson in Wilshire, we created an engaging graphic to breakdown for the consumer the different features and benefits of living there. This allowed us to develop chapters for the sales brochure per section, as well as key themes from which to campaign. We were also able to translate factual statistics into visually stimulating infographics in order to convey the development’s size and scale.
For us it's about creating a legacy for the brand, not just a veneer that leaves as soon as the developer is finished. The place-making instills a sense of pride, which in turn creates value and desire.
To create an engaging and memorable brand or campaign for your Garden Community, speak to the team today and watch this space for further developments!