HISTORY OF THE NEW TOWNS
1. The origins of the new towns movement
lie in the nineteenth century work and activities of Ebenezer
Howard, and his famous publication Garden Cities of Tomorrow.
Howard envisaged new towns to be self-sustaining, and oversaw
the construction of two garden cities (Letchworth and Welwyn)
located to the north of London. There are now 32 new or expanded
towns in the UK, with a total population of approximately 2.5
million people. Each new town was established by the UK Government
for a specific purpose, or purposes, and represents one of the
UK's most significant planning achievements.
2. The major drive for New Towns was immediately
after the Second World War, within the framework of urban development
policies. A Royal Commission chaired by Lord Reith was convened
in 1945-46, with a remit largely to find solutions to the immense
problems of urban congestion and housing shortage caused by the
war. The Reith Commission recommendations, a number of which are
set out in Annex B, closely reflected the principles espoused
by Ebenezer Howard. These recommendations inspired the New Town
Act of 1946 which created the administrative and financial framework
for the development of Britain's new towns. At the heart of this
Act were the development corporations, Government sponsored bodies
set up for each new town, with special powers to discharge its
remit of securing the laying out and development of the new town.
Each development corporation was to be wound up once it had fulfilled
its remit, and the assets and liabilities of the new town were
to be transferred to the local authority.
3. New Towns were created in a number of
phases. The first generation, between 1946-51, concentrated on
the relieving the housing, employment and other social pressures
of major cities, especially London. Of the first 11 new towns
designated by Government during this period, eight were satellites
However, a number of new towns had a wider remit. For example,
Dawley (later renamed Telford) aimed to attract new manufacturing
and service firms from the rest of Britain and from the rest of
the world, not simply from their nearby "parent cities".
The 1960s new towns, including Milton Keynes, were also set up
to deal with rapid population growth and meet anticipated housing
need and housing demand forecast for all the country's major urban
regionsand most especially for the South East region, centres
on London. At this time, new towns took a significant new approach
as three large, long-established townsPeterborough, Northampton
and Warringtonwere also designated for large-scale and
rapid expansion under the New Towns Act.
4. Under the New Towns Act 1946 Development
Corporations were set up to undertake the task of developing the
New Towns. In 1961 (by which time development was well advanced)
the Government created the Commission for New Towns. As the development
and construction of the Towns came to a close the Development
Corporations handed over local assets to the Commission. The original
funding for New Town development came from central funds, and
was intended to be repaid as a loan. CNT was therefore given the
job of disposing of state owned assets in order to continue to
fund development across the whole country. New Town Local Authorities
did not therefore benefit directly from local success.
5. However, the disposal process was slow
and the CNT estate value was increasing. Until 1979 demands were
still being made on the exchequer to find funds for future development.
The Government considered this to be unnecessary, and the Commission
was given asset disposal targets to speed up the process. Housing
stock was also disposed of, however tenants had to be consulted
and most chose local authorities over the government-preferred
option of Housing Associations.
8 Basildon, Bracknell, Crawley, Harlow, Hatfield,
Hemel Hempstead, Stevenage, Welwyn Garden City. Back