THE key initiative I started at the Town and Country Planning Association was to reinvent garden cities and garden towns for the present day.

Our mission was to use the opportunity that new development presents to build in a new way: not just delivering homes that are affordable to local people, but doing so in a way that treads lightly on the land and actually delivers environmental enhancement at the same time.

New communities, planned holistically from the outset, can specify zero carbon homes and buildings, renewable energy, greater biodiversity (as compared with farmed land) and better public transport in a strategy that has to be in lock step with creating jobs and economic activity for the new residents who need them.

It’s great that local authorities like Mid Devon are using their Garden Town funding to create an entirely new settlement along these lines.

Crucially, it would be rail linked into Exeter City centre via a reopened station, rather than simple car-borne development. They plan to use biomass fuel grown on land shaped and engineered to provide flood protection, with 1,100 jobs as part of their Garden Village.

In Taunton, already designed (and in some case permitted) schemes of new housing have had the Garden Town label appended to them with the aim of this attracting road-building grants and some landscaping.

I wish Taunton Deane well in those efforts, better infrastructure is definitely needed.

But, unless we radically change direction from from what people see as more urban sprawl, and instead consider low-carbon, rail-linked new settlements - and put the planet at the centre of our policies where it belongs - then we will be squandering the Garden City legacy of founder, Sir Ebenezer Howard, who first enjoined us to bring development closer to the natural world, including by letting “the countryside invade the town”.

Vice President, Town & Country Planning Association & Lib Dem Parliamentary Candidate 2017