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Wolfson garden city prize awarded to urban extension proposal involving taking "a big confident bite out of the green belt"

The 2014 Wolfson Economics Prize for the design of a new garden city for the UK has been won by a submission proposing the doubling in size of existing towns by allowing their expansion into green belt land.04 Sep 2014

The winning entry (92-page / 15.1 MB PDF), from David Rudlin of urban design and research consultancy URBED, recommended the introduction by the next government of a Garden Cities Act. The Act would enable existing towns to bid for garden city status, which would give them access to financial guarantees and land acquisition powers and allow them to set up local foundations for the promotion of their garden city.

Under Rudlin's vision, towns with populations of around 200,000 applying successfully for garden city status would concentrate growth into several major urban extensions of up to 50,000 homes each. The extensions would be arranged within 10km of the existing city centre and would be connected to the town by new tram or bus services, helping to revitalise the existing high streets while providing affordable new homes for those already living in the towns.

The proposal argued that "rather than nibbling into the fields that surround the city and all its satellite villages, we should take a good confident bite out of the green belt to create sustainable urban extensions that can support a tram service and a range of facilities." Under the vision, inaccessible green belt land with little ecological value would be built on, but "for every hectare of land developed another will be given back to the city as accessible public space, forests, lakes and country parks – the garden in which the city will sit".

The proposal focused on the fictional town of Uxceter but the authors said that they had identified "at least forty small cities in England that have some similarity to Uxceter and where the ideas in this essay could apply". The cities identified included Reading, Guidford, Bath, Cambridge and York and the proposal demonstrated how the ideas could be applied in Oxford, "one of the most contested and constrained versions of Uxceter in the country".

Leader of Oxfordshire County Council said in a statement: "Our economic plan proposes that 80,000 new jobs and 100,000 new homes need to be built by 2031 across [Oxfordshire]. Therefore we cannot rely on small, short-term fixes - we need to think of larger, bolder solutions. We welcome the stimulus that the Wolfson Economics Prize has given to this debate."

Winning author David Rudlin said: "We believe that the expansion of existing places like Uxcester to create garden cities has the potential to make a significant contribution to meeting our housing needs as well as creating places that are attractive and popular, and that fulfil their economic potential."