The British New Towns PolicyCategory: Land + People
By Lloyd Rodwin
Of the new towns under construction, ten are intended to relieve congestion in metropolitan areas. There are eight in the London region: Harlow in West Essex; Basildon in South Essex; Stevenage, Hatfield, and Welwyn Garden City, north of London in Hertfordshire; Hemel Hempstead, northwest of London; Bracknell in Berkshire; and Crawley in Sussex, south of London. In addition, there are five “independent towns”: Corby in Northamptonshire, Cwmbran in South Wales; Newton Aycliffe and Peterlee, both in County Durham. There are also three new towns in Scotland: Glenrothes in Fifeshire; East Kilbride, six miles south-east of Glasgow; and New Cumbernauld, the most recent new town, designed in the summer of 1955, twelve miles east of Glasgow.
For the present, few, if any, additional new towns are contemplated.
During the first three of four years, the rate of building was depressingly slow. The corporations were principally preoccupied with their organisations, the making of plans, the building up of a labour force, and the solution of some of the ticklish problems of securing water, sewerage, electricity, roads, and the like. When the program had been under way little more than a year, the economic crisis occurred. The impact on the program was almost fatal. Losses of foreign markets, shipping, and investments during World
War II, coupled with steadily shrinking gold reserves and the spectre of insolvency, made rapid increases of exports and immediate gains in productivity overriding necessities. They offered the only way to secure the necessary imports, including half the nation’s food. Investment was concentrated on dollar-earning projects. All other activities were sharply curtailed, including work on new towns not serving “immediate industrial needs ” The policy affected mainly the four London new towns: Stevenage, Crawley, Harlow, and Hemel Hempstead. The labour force was cut. Only a minimum amount of site preparation was permitted.
As economic conditions improved, the reins were gradually relaxed and by 1950 were almost fully removed. At the present time, most of the towns have entered the phase of large-scale construction, attraction of industry, and securing adequate schools, community centres, pubs, recreation areas, and other facilities for their expanding population.
From The British New Town Policy, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1956.