The Advent Village – can Father Christmas get a handle on those housing numbers?

18 December 2020

The advent village seeks to be a sustainable settlement and includes shops, a school and a church in addition to homes complemented by good quality landscaping.

Penny Moss Associate London

The opportunity to plan a new village from scratch is one which is afforded to very few planners; however, I have the privilege each December of doing just that. Step forward the advent village, a festive tradition that can be traced back to when I was doing my Masters at Reading. In the absence of an adopted development plan the layout of the village changes each year (sometimes there is a whole scale rearrangement midway through the month if the cat gets involved).

The advent village seeks to be a sustainable settlement and includes shops, a school and a church in addition to homes complemented by good quality landscaping. The retail provision in the centre comprises a greengrocer, cheese shop, antiques shop and a post office, clearly the residents are having to go elsewhere to meet other shopping requirements. Some out-of-centre retail has been mooted in the past, but nothing has materialised. Luckily, Father Christmas is on hand to ensure that internet orders are delivered by sleigh, now where is the relevant policy for accommodating sleigh parking and reindeer accommodation…

The recent changes to the planning system have not yet had an impact on the village (mainly because it has been in an envelope for 11 months). The Snowman is currently processing all applications that have been submitted and the impact will be monitored and a full report delivered next year. 

The Policy Research Unit (Snow Dog) has been assessing the impact that the changes to permitted development regulations currently out to consultation could have on the village, initial research is set out below of the impact of all Class E floorspace being converted to residential accommodation via permitted development rights. 



Next Year?


Ideas are already being gathered to find that irresistible marshmallow which will ensure that the village continues to thrive even without a retail focus.  The potential for providing a cultural centre is already being explored with the trumpet playing angel providing some free afternoon concerts which is helping to attract people into the centre.

Announcements this week from the Government on the new 2020 Standard Housing Method for Local Housing Need are still being processed by Father Christmas (he’s quite busy this time of year), the Indicative Local Housing Need figure for the advent village hasn’t been released with all the other areas.  The advent village may need to start coming out in November depending on identified levels of need.

The village has a strong design guide.  This has led to a low-rise development which has caused some urban sprawl and residential properties being located on the slightly leaning collection of maps.  Building at a higher density elsewhere would have reduced the need for residential development on a compromised site in a less accessible location, this is something that will need to be explored once Father Christmas has located the housing need figure. 

I’m hoping that the changes that have been made to the planning system this year and the outstanding consultations don’t scare Father Christmas, The Snowman and Snow Dog and that they all return to the advent village for 2021.