Friday, October 21, 2011

From Garden Cities to New Towns – An Integrative Planning Solution?

by Chris Gossop

From their foundation in the form of the two garden cities of Letchworth and Welwyn at the start of the twentieth century, the British new towns are now a well established part of planning history. It is perhaps surprising, though, to realise that Milton Keynes, the largest of them, and one of the last to be set up, was designated 40 years ago. So, are the British new towns just history or do they have a continuing relevance?
This paper first traces the evolution of the new towns concept, from the formulation of the garden cities idea by Ebenezer Howard, to the programme of Government new towns that followed the Second World War (WWII). It next seeks to highlight some of the lessons of this experience and then to provide a personal verdict on the successes and failures of these new communities.
An underlying question is whether the new towns achieved Howard’s vision for garden cities as well as the wider regional development aims of Government? Related to that is whether they have become successful places in which to live and work. Following the Congress theme, has Howard’s inclusive vision been realised – have the new towns proved to be an integrative solution?
In its final section, the paper explores the ways in which the new town idea has been taken forward in the United Kingdom. After a lengthy period during which it was given too little importance, the regional planning - of which the new towns were a product - is once more a priority. In the south east of East of England, four major growth areas are now being pursued through a range of mechanisms. One of these will involve a substantial expansion of Milton Keynes and there are roles for other new towns too. The paper concludes with a brief look at the plan for Northstowe, a proposed new settlement near Cambridge.

queen's court, the centre, milton keynes, england, 1973-1979, by seier+seier

more about Garden City movement:

History of Letchworth Garden City

Staff Houses and Garden Cities: The Influence of the Pulp and Paper Industry on Newfoundland’s Built Heritage

Assessment of Garden City Planning Principles in the ACT

Howard Park and Howard Garden, Letchworth Garden City, Herts: Archaeological Desk Based Assessment

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