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Clegg proposes ‘Garden Cities Railway’

A railway line through the "brain-belt of Britain" will be built to serve new garden cities, Nick Clegg has announced.

The deputy PM, who accused the Tories earlier this year of adopting a ‘nimby’ approach to housebuilding, will say that the plan will help to create an extra 50,000 new homes in an area of intense demand for housing in the home counties.

A coalition row over housing flared up earlier this year after it emerged that the Tories had declined to publish a Whitehall report which suggested that two new garden cities needed to be built in southern England to relieve pressure on housing.

Under the plans, the old train route between Oxford and Cambridge will be reopened in full and stations would be granted to up to five towns along it that agree to build between 9,000 and 15,000 homes.

The first section of the line is already going ahead from Oxford to Bedford as part of the ‘East West Rail’ scheme, but the more complex Bedford to Cambridge stretch, estimated to cost up to £1 billion, will only start once the structural budget deficit has been cleared in 2018.

The new rail link would also reduce the journey time between Oxford and Cambridge from 2.5 hours to 60 minutes.

Clegg said that Britain faces a housing crisis and that nowhere near enough home are being built to meet demand and keep prices affordable.

"Garden Cities are a vital cornerstone of our plan to boost house building to 300,000 homes a year – enough to meet demand and keep prices in reach – while still protecting our precious green space and preventing urban sprawl,” he said. “Our plan is to build a series of high quality new towns and cities where people want to live, with green space, sustainable transport and spacious homes.

"The Conservatives have held back the development of Garden Cities on the scale necessary, but if Liberal Democrats are part of the next government, we will ensure at least ten get underway – with up to five along this new Garden Cities Railway, bringing new homes and jobs to the brain-belt of South East England."

Bicester has already expressed an interest in creating a garden city and other areas along the line could include St Neots, Aylesbury and Great Cambourne.

Clegg is also expected to make clear that new towns would not be imposed on communities; instead incentives, such as the granting of the new stations, would be used to encourage support for new towns.

(Image: c. Danny Lawson/PA Wire)

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