Garden communities toolkit

Developing a vision

How to successfully guide the development by creating a clear vision for your garden community.

To inform and support delivery of a garden community, you need to create a coherent, holistic and ambitious vision.

This establishes the kind of place and community to be created and will guide development of detailed proposals.

Developing a vision

An effective vision sets out the main components, characteristics and qualities of the garden community. It also addresses the environmental, social and economic objectives.

Your vision should be flexible enough to be tested and refined through the course of the project - as more detailed assessments are done and new information becomes known.

It should be developed at the start of the planning process. This will shape development of relevant planning policy and negotiations with stakeholders.


You should encourage participation of stakeholders from the start of your project, these include:

  • local community
  • decision makers in local authorities and statutory undertakers
  • potential developers
  • investors

Defining important garden community objectives

You can find advice on the characteristics and place-making aspects of a garden community on these websites.

When drafting a vision, think about how the following are addressed:

  • what the role and function of the garden community will be in the local context and what mix of uses and housing tenures will ensure it will be economically, socially and environmentally successful
  • what land uses and components does it include to meet the day-to-day needs of local residents and prioritise sustainable modes of transport
  • how it can be designed to be locally distinctive. For example, the opportunities provided by local landscape, heritage, green infrastructure, local economic drivers
  • how it adapts to climate change, changes in demography, evolution of technological opportunities, changes in working patterns and other behaviour
  • how the long-term stewardship and governance of community assets will be managed and funded

Local distinctiveness

Analyse the local environment and place to identify locally distinctive factors which can inform a garden community’s unique selling point and make it an attractive proposition for residents and businesses.

Distinct features can include: 

  • natural/ geographical features
  • proximity to important assets
  • accessibility
  • local housing and demographic needs
  • strong local economic sectors such as technology or science

What to include in your vision

Components to include:

  • a short written statement setting out the over-arching goal for the garden community
  • the series of objectives/ aims it will deliver
  • a set of development principles that will facilitate delivery of the objectives 
  • an early-stage high-level spatial concept plan which provides a strategic overview of the potential spatial distribution of main land uses in the community
  • illustrations to provide direction on the aspired quality of the garden community

Who develops the vision

If your garden community proposal comes through a Local Plan process, it’s likely the local authority will take a lead in developing the vision for it. 

Responsibility for moving the visioning process forward and recording outputs can vary, so this should be agreed by the main parties at the outset.

Engage the community and stakeholders in the visioning process as part of an overall engagement strategy. This is so participants can understand how their input will be used, and what other opportunities they’ll have to influence and shape the garden community.

Stakeholders include: 

  • the local community
  • elected members
  • technical stakeholders
  • local interest groups
  • landowners and developers

Involving stakeholders

To encourage stakeholders to participate in creating a vision, you can use visioning workshops, charrettes, focus groups and drop-in sessions.

To inform and build consensus around what is unique about a place, it is useful to analyse the local context, built and environmental characteristics, constraints and opportunities available.

Some techniques to structure a visioning session:

  • do an analysis of the context looking at the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats that may impact on the garden community
  • identify place-specific opportunities, assets and priorities that it may be useful to build on in designing the garden community
  • ask what places participants think work well, and why 
  • develop and test different options for the strategic layout of the garden community

More formal consultation can be used to gain views on a draft vision from a larger number of stakeholders.

This could form part of the Local Plan consultation process if a coordinated approach is adopted - this can limit consultation fatigue.

Garden community charters

Following preparation of a vision, you can develop the main concepts further by creating a garden community charter. This sets out a commitment to deliver on the main components of the garden communities vision.