Poll shows large scale support for housebuilding to keep economy growing

Wednesday, 06 August 2014


  • Three quarters of Brits back garden cities as best way to tackle housing shortage
  • Free or cheaper energy bills most likely to win over garden city sceptics

The British public overwhelmingly backs housebuilding to support continued economic growth and believe garden cities would be the most effective way of delivering the new homes while best protecting the countryside.
To mark the deadline next Monday (11 August) for finalists’ submissions to this year’s £250,000 Wolfson Economics Prize, further research analysis released today shows that, by almost 3 to 1 (66% to 23%), Brits want more houses built to keep Britain’s economy growing. There was strong support among all income groups, ages and political persuasions including Conservative (74%-20%) and Ukip (61%-32%) voters.

The new finding comes in the wake of earlier analysis showing that almost three quarters (74%) of those polled backed garden cities, with support stronger among older people and homeowners than among the population generally. Over two thirds of the public (68%) also said that building new garden cities would better protect the countryside from development than the alternatives.
The poll of over 6,000 people, carried out by pollsters Populus, is the first-ever large scale survey of attitudes towards garden cities. Other findings include:

  • Over a quarter (26%) of people rejected the idea that it would be inappropriate to build a garden city close to where they live.
  • When the public were asked which of a range of incentives would make them more in favour of a garden city near where they lived, the most popular incentive was free or cheap energy with 71% of respondents agreeing this would make them more in favour of a garden city in their area (and just 8% saying it would make them less in favour).
  • Those who do not want to see a new garden city in their backyard are even more likely to be won round with free or cheaper energy than the population as a whole (77% of those surveyed)
  • The next three most popular incentives for those staying in the area when the garden city was built were council tax discounts (74%), a guarantee to protect the homeowner against any drop in the value of their home (74%) and a promise of improved public services (75%).

The findings come ahead of the much anticipated announcement for the winner of the £250,000 Prize on Wednesday 3 September and Michael Lyons’ review into housing for the Labour Party.
Miles Gibson, Prize Director, Wolfson Economics Prize 2014, said:

“This polling shows that the public backs the idea of getting Britain building. The findings support other recent surveys showing that attitudes to development are changing, as house prices climb ever further out of the reach of young families. Local resistance to new development needs to be addressed by striking a better balance locally between the costs and benefits of development. Redressing that balance through incentives can make a significant difference to local support, particularly when benefits reduce daily living costs, address fears of falling property prices, or improve local services.”

Press queries can be directed to John Higginson (Westbourne Communications Ltd) on 07920 701 693.

Notes To Editors

  1. At £250,000 the Wolfson Economics Prize is the second-biggest cash economics prize after the Nobel Prize. The prize seeks to find the best answer to the following question: “How would you deliver a new Garden City which is visionary, economically viable, and popular?”
  2. The 2014 Prize topic was announced on 14 November 2013 and the entry deadline was 3 March 2014. Entrants were asked to provide an essay of 10,000 words (plus non-technical summary of 1,000 words) on the Prize Question. There were 279 entries. Finalists were announced on 4 June and the overall winner will be announced on 3 September 2014.
  3. Populus carried out an online poll in three waves between 16 and 26 May 2014 and received 6,166 responses. The results have been weighted to be representative of the national population as a whole. An initial analysis of the poll was published by the Wolfson Prize on 1 June 2014; today’s analysis supplements that. The earlier findings are available at: http://www.policyexchange.org.uk/media-centre/press-releases/category/item/widespread-support-for-garden-cities-as-best-way-to-tackle-housing-crisis
  4. More information about the Prize is available at www.wolfsonprize.org.uk. The Prize secretariat tweets from @WEP2014.
  5. The five finalists are:
  • Barton Willmore, led by James Gross. Barton Willmore is the UK’s largest independent planning led town-planning and design consultancy. Barton Willmore's entry sets out a ten-point plan for the delivery of a new garden city, arguing for the development of a cross-party consensus and the production of a National Spatial Plan to identify suitable locations for new garden cities. Garden City Mayors, heading up Garden City Commissions, would be appointed to champion garden cities and find specific locations for development.
  • Chris Blundell FRICS FCIH, Director of Development & Regeneration at Golding Homes. Chris is a development professional with over 30 years’ experience and has entered in a personal capacity with the support of Golding Homes. His entry argues that a garden city should accommodate between 30,000 and 40,000 people (about the size of Letchworth) and that its delivery should be led by Garden City Development Corporations.
  • David Rudlin of URBED, with Nicholas Falk (also URBED) and input from Jon Rowland (John Rowland Urban Design), Joe Ravetz (Manchester University) and Peter Redman (Managing Director, Policy and Research at TradeRisks Ltd). URBED is an urban design and research practice. David’s entry argues for the near-doubling of an existing large town in line with garden city principles, to provide new housing for 150,000 people (about the size of Oxford or Canterbury). The entry offers a proof of this ‘urban extension’ concept based on a fictional town called Uxcester.
  • Shelter, the leading housing and homelessness charity, led by their Head of Policy Toby Lloyd. This entry proposes a new garden city on the Hoo Peninsula (Medway, Kent) commencing with a settlement of up to 48,000 people (about the size of Welwyn Garden City) at Stoke Harbour as part of a larger cluster of settlements eventually totaling 150,000 people.) The entry proposes a model designed to attract massive private investment into the provision of high quality homes, jobs, services and infrastructure. The delivery model prioritises speed and volume over profit margins, aims to acquire land at low cost and transfer valuable assets to a Community Trust for the long term. Local people would be offered unique opportunities to invest in the city, including through buying shares.
  • Wei Yang & Partners in collaboration with Buro Happold Consulting Engineers, led by Pat Willoughby. Wei Yang & Partners is a London-based practice with an international portfolio of master planning, town planning, urban design and architectural projects. Dr Yang is also advising the Chinese Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development on its urbanization programme. Their entry argues that an ‘arc’ beyond the London Green Belt (stretching from Portsmouth to Oxford to Cambridge to Felixstowe) is the best location for the development of new garden cities; and that the Government should publish a New Garden Cities Strategy identifying broad ‘areas of search’ for suitable locations, with a 30 year timescale.
The Wolfson Prize was founded in 2011 by Lord (Simon) Wolfson of Aspley Guise. There has been one previous competition, on the topic of the Eurozone. The winner of the 2012 Prize was Roger Bootle with Capital Economics. The prize is sponsored by the Charles Wolfson Charitable Trust, a family charity, and managed by Policy Exchange, the independent London-based think tank. Simon Wolfson, the Founder of the Wolfson Economics Prize, has been Chief Executive of Next plc since 2001, a company he joined as a Sales Assistant in 1991. Since his appointment as Chief Executive Next profits have more than doubled with earnings per share compounding at 16% per annum. Simon was created a Tory Peer in 2010. Simon's long standing interest in better housing, and the social and economic benefits it can bring to the UK are born of years of experience trading the length and breadth of the UK. Miles Gibson has taken a formal career break from the UK civil service to become the Prize Director for the Wolfson Economics Prize 2014. His civil service career spans more than a decade and includes senior roles in the Department for Communities and Local Government, HM Treasury, and the Cabinet Office. He has worked with and for most of the leading politicians of our generation in roles which have made him a recognised public policy expert in the areas of housing, land use, infrastructure and property taxation. He is a fully qualified town planner and also has a degree in architecture.