Commuter villages proposed
Hertfordshire and Essex could see the creation of dozens of commuter villages, if the ideas in a top academic’s report for an urban policy think-tank are eventually adopted by the government. The report suggests that these new communities should be developed on land, green belt in many cases, close to under-used train stations located within reasonable commuting distance of central London.
Professor Paul Cheshire of the London School of Economics was commissioned by the Centre for Cities to suggest viable solutions to the demand for homes in and around five major UK conurbations. His research concluded that more than 1,000 stations around these cities could have suitable land within a half-mile radius. Over 500 of those stations are spread around the capital.
As Essex and Herts wrap around at least one-third of the capital’s outskirts, many locations in the two counties could be potential commuter village sites. Professor Cheshire said that to qualify for inclusion, a station must be within a 45-minute commute from Zone 1 of London’s travel network. That and the closeness of each village would, he said, provide many shorter, greener commutes.
The overall volume of housing created on the new sites could be enormous, according to the report. After allowing for one-tenth of new green space within the villages, some 22,000 hectares of usable land around London would, at an average density of 40 homes per hectare, provide almost 900,000 new homes. And, with the local train station so near, commuting occupiers could leave their cars at home.
Whilst presenting a possible solution to one problem (i.e. the housing shortage), such plans could provoke controversy in the target areas. Similar proposals in the past have brought adverse reactions from local residents and those anxious to preserve areas of green belt. There may be a raft of town and country planning battles to come if and when the Cheshire plan finds favour with the government.