Radical spirit driving the planners of the UK New Towns programme revealed

Five major figures reflect candidly on the original New Town programmes, in a new report published by Idox. Drawing on original archive interview material, the report offers an intriguing insight into the challenges they faced in creating communities from scratch.

Idox, the leading provider of Planning, Building Control and related services in the UK, today launched the report “Planning the New Towns – In Their Own Words”, edited by Morwen Johnson. The report makes publicly available for the first time, 5 interviews carried out in the 1980s and 1990s with those directly involved. As they reflect on their experience we can hear pride, as well as a touch of bemusement at the scale of the programme that they were part of delivering.

The 33 New Towns developed since 1946 represent the most sustained programme of new town development undertaken anywhere in the world. Today, they are home to over three million people.

The New Towns Programme drew on the expertise and enthusiasm of a group of committed and visionary planners and architects. As well as being the driving force behind specific New Town schemes, many of these individuals became major figures in the development of late 20th century architecture and town planning in the UK.

 

The interview material features:

  • Lord Campbell of Eskan – “I was really astonished how fortunate we were that we weren’t lynched in the streets with the appalling upheaval that it meant”
  • Walter Bor, CBE – “Cities must absorb change, live with it, rather than prohibit it”
  • Professor Derek Walker – “I am optimistic that mediocrity is not an inherent British trait”
  • Sir George Grenfell-Baines – “One of the aspects which makes the British New Town Movement unique is the public money that was actually put into it.”
  • Sir David Gosling – “The corporate spirit of the team was legendary and it was probably its interdisciplinary structure which assisted in its radical thinking”

This report celebrates the life-long commitment and vision which the planning profession brings to place-making. It also represents a historical narrative of the radical spirit that inspired those who built the New Towns.

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