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Guide 6: Culture and the Arts

Garden City Standards for the 21st Century 

Practical Guides for Creating Successful New Communities 

Guide 6: I'd love to live there! Planning for culture and the arts 

Download the guide here

New Garden Cities should be characterised by their social and cultural vibrancy. Building houses, schools, roads and hospitals is not enough: we need to create appealing,vibrant places in which people will want to live.

One hundred years ago the early pioneers of planning knew this. The Garden City movement put great emphasis on the role of arts and culture in improving wellbeing within a co-operative approach to society. In Welwyn, the second Garden City, the first public building to open was a theatre. Planning was once considered both a technical and an artistic endeavour. 

Now, in the early 21st century, the economic value of culture and the arts is recognised all over the world. And, just as public sector funding for arts and culture is shrinking, developers are recognising that collaborating with creative people brings value and distinctiveness to the places that they make. Yet often the public sector role of setting a long-term vision and strategy for a place isthe vital underpinning that makes things happen.

What does this rapidly changing context mean for those who want to create Garden Cities and large-scale new developments that will be welcomed by existing communities and attractive to new ones? How can we plan for a rich cultural life in an era in which civic buildings such as theatres or community centres are often too expensive to maintain? How can the huge, difficult and long-term enterprise of creating a whole new place make space for the anarchic, messy and exciting world of festivals, pop-up events and ‘meanwhile’ spaces? How can we recapture that artistic side of planning once again?

This Practical Guide sets out five overarching principles for the successful delivery of a vibrant social and cultural offer in new Garden Cities:

  • corporate and political leadership;
  • a clear and long-term artistic and cultural strategy;
  • evidenced and effective development plan policy;
  • a flexible approach to design and delivery, to accommodate changing needs; and
  • a strong financial model and governance structure that together provide for the long-termstewardship of assets on behalf of the community.

This Practical Guide is for councillors, council officers, developers, planners, policy-makers and anyone trying to create new places that will be good to live in for generations to come.

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