Garden communities toolkit


Governance creates good collaborative working and effective decision-making among public and private sector partners and stakeholders.

Why governance is important 

Good project governance will support you to:

  • ensure common objectives and outcomes are shared by relevant parties
  • give various parties clarity on their roles and responsibilities 
  • speed up the delivery programme with efficient decision-making processes
  • involve relevant stakeholders in the decision-making process to increase buy-in
  • provide strategic direction, so delivery of a garden community is moved forward
  • identify barriers and challenges to successful delivery of the project and find solutions
  • support partnership working between the public and private sectors
  • provide consistency and ensure delivery of the initial vision

Identifying participants

A range of participants can be involved in the governance structure of a garden community. These have distinctive and overlapping roles, like a local authority may have a regulatory planning role and a landowning role. Not all the participants will have a similar or equal stake in decision-making as part of the governance structure.

  • local authorities
  • county councils
  • landowners
  • developers 
  • statutory undertakers
  • local community 
  • economic and local interest groups

Establishing a governance structure

The best approach to governance for your garden community project will depend on local context, the stage of the project, and the decisions that need to be made to enable the project to progress.

The typical main tiers of a project governance structure are:

  • a decision-making body or board
  • a strategic steering group
  • a project delivery team

Alongside these, stakeholder groups and / or topic specific task and finish working groups are typically used to feed into particular topic areas.

How to establish and maintain a good governance structure

  • keep the governance structure as simple as possible – it can be reviewed as the project evolves
  • be clear on who it is critical to involve – and why
  • enable the different parties to retain their own roles and decision making functions while working to deliver the shared vision and objectives for the garden community
  • ensure that the people involved in the governance structure have the authority to make the decisions needed at the relevant levels
  • agree terms of reference, so that participants are clear on roles and responsibilities. 
  • be clear on the type of decisions the project governance are responsible for making. Where project-related decisions are made elsewhere (like regulatory decisions made by the local authority, funding decisions made by the developer’s board), agree a protocol for how and when items will be referred to these external decision makers 
  • decide who will lead and be responsible for day-to-day management of the governance structure with the respective partner groups and overall. 
  • make sure appropriate resources are in place to administer the governance structure
  • agree a protocol for sharing information
  • keep the effectiveness of the governance structure under review to ensure it is fit for purpose as a garden community project progresses
  • if elected members are involved in the governance structure, make sure their role in the project is understood in the context of any other roles they may have as part of the council structure, and is clearly defined in the terms of reference
  • be clear on what wider  community’s role is in the context of any wider engagement and consultation on the project that may occur
  • set out the governance structure and responsibilities in a memorandum of understanding between the relevant parties

Cross boundary projects

Where a garden community crosses local authority boundaries, consider how planning and other regulatory decisions will be made.

You can create a joint planning committee, distinct from individual local authority committees, which considers planning applications and matters that relate specifically to a garden community area.

It will enable joint decision-making by representatives from all local authorities in that area.

Read more about contributing to the duty to cooperate on GOV.UK website.

Further information