New Towns Act 1946

This essay sample on New Towns Act 1946 provides all necessary basic info on this matter, including the most common “for and against” arguments. Below are the introduction, body and conclusion parts of this essay.

The original concepts of new towns date back from1799 and New Lanark on the banks of the river Clyde by Robert Owen. It was built as an industrial town with houses for the workers in the cotton mills.

The next main historical event in the development of new town policy comes from Ebenezer Howard and his theory of Garden Cities.

He published a book called “Garden Cities of Tomorrow”, this lead to the building of Letchworth in 1903 and Welwyn Garden City in 1919.

After the Second World War Sir Patrick Abercrombie put forward a proposal to build 10 satellite towns beyond London’s green belt. These mainly to be built north of London although a few (Crawley and Bracknell etc) were built south of London. This lead to the passing of the new town act in 1946.

This allowed for the provision of 28 new towns, 8 of them within 30 miles of London and the rest scattered around the UK. The new towns were chosen for their location, e.g. Bracknell (built in 1949) was 28 miles west of London and 18 miles from Heathrow. Its site was chosen in favour of White Waltham as it was close to an airfield and there was suitable land available.

New Towns Uk

The end of the new towns act was in 1977, and meant that new towns stopped being built.

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Those that were currently under construction such as Milton Keynes were continued until they were completed, 1992 for Milton Keynes.

The act was withdrawn because it was felt that although the new towns were being filled they were just drawing people from the inner cities, and hence the inner cities were starting to decline. At this point the government decided to completely reverse its policy and actively try to improve the inner cities, an example being the comprehensive overhaul of the London Docklands.

Purpose of New Towns

In order to assess whether new town policy has been a success we must look at the purpose for the development of new towns. This can be split into five main subsections:

They were originally proposed as over-spill towns from London, intended to re-house the population from inner cities in a series of slum clearances after the second world war had destroyed much of London. Areas such as the Docklands and Canary Wharf are key areas that were cleared in order that they might be redeveloped. The displaced population was relocated in the new towns such as Bracknell, Crawley and the new town of East Kilbride taking people from the slums of Glasgow, namely the Gorbals.

In order that the towns might become self-sufficient it was intended that industry and business would relocate to the new towns. In order to encourage them to move incentive schemes were instigated and premises built so that companies could move, housing close to the factories and offices were also provided so that they could take their workforce with them.

New towns were also built to try and promote areas with untapped resources. Towns such as Corby were founded and housing built to support the industry around it. This meant that the inhabitants had a job laid out for them when they moved to their new house. However when the resource runs out the town is left without its main source of employment and so the number of people who are jobless rises sharply.

New towns were seen as a way of allowing people to settle in remote areas that had low population densities. Around Newtown in mid Wales for example there were originally only small towns and villages as well as a few farms. Newtown meant that a new trunk road was built and attracted large multinational companies like Laura Ashley (subsequently relocated) and other distribution firms.

The fifth and final reason for the development of new towns is to revitalise run down areas. This happened in Peterlee and Washington in the North of England. In much the same ways as other new towns were built they were constructed with housing groups and industry to provide jobs as well as incentives to attract the companies.


The new town policy was discontinued in 1977. There are a number of possible reasons for this:

* It may be that no more housing is required and hence building more new towns would just lead to an over provision for housing and cause house prices to fall and lead to large scale negative equity, thus forcing the country into a recession.

* It may have been felt that the new towns were expanding too quickly and not respecting green-belt land. Consequently the act was stopped with the thought that this would preserve some of the open land.

* Inner cities were felt to be declining as the general trend was to re-house people from these inner city areas as so they were not having the investment made in them. Areas such as the London Docklands and Canary Wharf are obvious examples of areas that have since benefited from the change in policy concerning new towns.

The new town policy has been criticised for having been a failure; some have argued that because the early new towns were built with the houses first in an attempt to relocate as many people as possible as quickly as possible, jobs for those who moved were not provided. This lead to a large percentage of the population of the early new towns being out of work and unemployed, leading to a stigma being attached to the new towns as areas for the lower classes.

This was changed in later new towns as for example in Milton Keynes where industry moved with a certain amount of workforce, as well as a Central Business eXchange (CBX) being built and a large shopping complex in the centre with provision for parking all around the outside.

New towns that built up around a particular resource soon collapsed when the resource ran out, for example in Corby an industry was set-up around the steelworks providing many hundreds of jobs for the inhabitants of Corby. This however was the main source of employment in the town and so when the resource (iron ore) ran out the industry had to close, causing the loss of those many hundreds of jobs.

This problem was one inherent in the construction of a town with just one main source of employment and can only be catered for by ensuring that either the employment continues or that there is some other form of employment for the town. Corby was therefore learnt from and the later new towns did not have one sole industry.

A fundamental problem with the new towns was the policy of creating socially mixed housing. Whilst it was understood that houses of all sizes should be created in order to cater for all it was felt that areas of socially mixed housing would be a good idea. However the people living in the houses did not want to be in areas of either socially or ethnically mixed housing. Thus managers did not want to be living next to the factory floor workers.

However the new towns were built in small neighbourhoods around each other. This meant that it was not necessary to take the car in order to purchase convenience goods such a milk and bread. With a good network of pleasant paths it is possible to go entirely by foot or by bike.

The networks of roads in a new town are quite often laid out geometrically. In Milton Keynes for example the road are spaced at one kilometre intervals and at 90� to each other, this thereby creates a traffic grid which allows cars and buses to move along with the minimal amount of hassle.

It is however in this that yet another problem with new towns lies: It relies heavily on the car. To use Milton Keynes again as an example the central shopping centre has many hundreds of car park spaces, but is surrounded firstly by the car park, then by a ring of industry, and only then does the first set of housing start. This means that anyone who wants to go shopping but does not have a car is forced to use public transport, as it is impossible to go to the shops and carry the purchases back.

The building of new towns has allowed for some radical rethinks into the way that houses are built and positioned. Energy saving houses that lose less than 1% of their heat to the surroundings by the use of heat exchanges and solar panels have been developed in some new towns, setting the way for further housing.

Finally the new town policy has created towns that are fairly well countrified, and although they are often lumps of concrete in the middle of green open areas they are well countrified. With millions of trees having been planted for instance in Milton Keynes it will ensure that the surroundings are pleasant for the inhabitants.

So has the policy of new towns been a failure or a success. To recap we have the problems of inner cities becoming dilapidated, social housing areas, lack of jobs, collapse of industry and the reliance on the car. Beside this there are the positive points of the development of futuristic housing, re-housing of slums, relocation of business out of the city centres, promotion of new resources and the revitalisation of remote and run down areas.

We can therefore conclude that although new towns have many disadvantages the policy was right to try and move people away from the slums but should have redeveloped those areas immediately so that they did not fuel the cycle. The implementation of well structured new towns with adequate services and networks is a much better alternative to an unplanned urban sprawl which we see starting to spread its way across England’s countryside.

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New Towns Act 1946. (2019, Dec 07). Retrieved from

New Towns Act 1946
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