Nick Clegg says “There should be more towns like Welwyn Garden City”

The deputy prime minister has praised Welwyn Garden City and said there should be more towns like it.

The Liberal Democrat leader said in a speech to the National House Building Council he wanted to rediscover the tradition of building new communities.

But his comments have fallen foul of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE).

He said: “We can either condemn ourselves to haphazard urban sprawl – the surest way to damage the countryside, we can cram ever more people into existing settlements, concreting over gardens and parks – and bear in mind we already build the smallest homes in Western Europe, or we can build places people want to live.

“Places which draw on the best of British architecture and design, which have their own identity and character, which – rather than destroy the countryside, actually have a crucial role in keeping it intact.

“Places put together in a way that makes sense for modern British families.

“People who want gardens; who want to live sustainably; no need to be able to move easily between work and home. Garden Cities and suburbs for the 21st Century.”

He added: “Letchworth was the first in 1903; then Welwyn. Then came garden suburbs – extensions to established urban centres which followed the same principles. Like Hampstead Garden Suburb.”

But CPRE has hit back.

Planning officer Kate Houghton said: “CPRE agrees that we need to build more homes and create new communities.

“Garden cities incorporate some good ideas about how to do this, including an emphasis on people having an ownership stake in their own community, proper infrastructure provision, locally distinctive design and access to jobs near where they live.

“But the Deputy Prime Minister has made the mistake of completely ignoring the potential to regenerate our existing towns and cities to meet the current and urgent housing need and make them more desirable and sustainable places to live.”

It seems whilst the debate goes on between the government and the CPRE there is no doubt that the deputy prime minister believes our town is the place to live. We are sure, however, that he will not know that a Garden City comes with an entirely unique structure of ownership and Estate Management Scheme.

Letchworth and Welwyn Garden City are the only two places in the country to have such a scheme and this means that property lawyers have to treat Garden Cities very differently to standard conveyancing practice. In many cases the freehold of the houses in Welwyn Garden are owned by the Council as Landlord and a leasehold ownership of 999 years is granted to the leaseholder. The leaseholder pays minimal ground rent to the Council annually. There is a freehold reversion option available to leaseholders which means that the leaseholders can purchase the freehold from the Council and subsequently merge their freehold and leasehold titles to create a freehold ownership.

The Estate Management scheme also means that leaseholders have to obtain not only planning permission but also estate management consent to carry out works to their property, this is to enable the Council, as Landlord, to ensure that the overall look of the Garden City is not damaged or changed too drastically from the original design.

As a local and well established firm, our property lawyers have many years’ experience in dealing with the unique area of law that surrounds a Garden City. We deal with leasehold house purchases, freehold reversions and mergers on a regular basis and believe our local knowledge and good relationship with the Council helps to assist in ensuring our clients receive the best service possible.

Please contact a member of our team if you are considering moving to Welwyn Garden City or if you are already a resident and would like more information in relation to freehold reversions we will be happy to assist.