Britain's new town boom in the middle of the last century achieved mixed levels of long term success. However the new wave of new towns planned by the current UK government promises something rather more elegant and intuitive.
The planned new environments owe something to both urban regeneration and rural blight. Those not in favour cite their potential to wreck Britain's countryside, but the relevant parties are assuring a far more sympathetic approach. Rather than the concrete jungles the last wave of new towns have often become, the new breed will be punctuated with parks, gardens and green spaces, taking their lead from the rural sites on which they will stand.
1. Getting out of town
The towns are proposed as a response to Britain's growing need for new, affordable housing. While urban regeneration schemes such as those offered by the Pervaiz Naviede Family Trust are going some way towards making the most of what's available in the city, the government believes it needs to take a similar approach in more rural areas. The plans are taking cues from the Victorian garden cities idea and the more sensitive urban regeneration successes that are helping to transform some of Britain's inner cities.
2. Green Belts
Along with open space, transport connections will be taken into account, with an emphasis on avoiding the concrete grid approach. The aim is to blend in with rather than obliterate the rural environment, while national park and green belt lands are to remain untouched.
The plans come under the remit of the National Planning Policy Framework and are specifically designed to support sustainable development and meet with local approval. Significance has been placed upon affordable housing and community areas, both to resolve existing housing problems and boost the nascent recovery of the UK economy.
Critics have noted an earlier disregard for Britain's rural areas in current government policy, citing the controversial HS2 train route, but the government insists the need for the proposed new 16,000 new houses will be carefully managed. To consolidate its commitment to the project, the government has already made 150 million in reduced rate loans available to developers, as an adjunct to the 420 million already given as part of the 'Get Britain Building' scheme designed to jump start existing building projects that stalled in the recession.
The post war new town boom in Britain was the brainchild of town and country planning minister Lewis Silkin and kicked off with Stevenage today a rather grey, dull, cement monument to the 'classless' Labour government of Clement Attlee. It was followed by a slew of others in an attempt to ease housing pressure in London in a similar style to the Stevenage project. While such towns, particularly the poster boy for the stereotype, Milton Keynes, have been derided as soulless examples of unimaginative town planning and grim council estates, there's no doubt that in a number ways they were, at least at one time, pleasant and practical places to live.
It can only be hoped that the next generation of new town planners will learn from the lessons of the past and take inspiration from the modern breed or urban developers such as the Pervaiz Naviede family trust rather than carving up Britain's green fields indiscriminately.