Town planning in the 1900s

At the turn of the century, legislation continued to improve conditions for the industrial work force.

This included

  • Town Planning Act 1909, which forbade the building of back-to-back housing, symbolic of the poverty of the industrial cities, and allowed local authorities to prepare schemes of town planning
  • Housing Act 1919, which gave the Ministry of Health authority to approve the design of houses
  • Housing Act 1930, which required all slum housing to be cleared in designated improvement areas

Around this time, the Garden Cities movement was formed under the influence of Sir Ebenezer Howard, a visionary who took public health reform further by planning to build green cities on the principle that

'by so laying out a Garden City that, as it grows, the free gifts of 'Nature fresh air, sunlight, breathing room and playing room shall be still retained in all needed abundance.'

This eventually led to the New Towns movement and the New Towns Act 1946 although, by the time new towns were being built, the rise of the privately owned motor car had made much of Howard's vision unattainable.

Pressure on the countryside

With all the new housing, the rise of the motorcar and continued industrial development, the countryside came under increasing pressure.

For example, between 1919 and 1939 over four million new homes were built, the majority on green fields, and advertising hoardings sprung up unregulated across the landscape.

octopus book

In response to this threat, the need for planning controls to be extended to cover the countryside as well as towns was recognised and in 1926 the Council for the Preservation of Rural England was formed later renamed the Campaign to Protect Rural England.

As pressure was put on the Government to take action, two important acts of Parliament were passed:

  • Town and Country Planning Act 1932, which was the first legislation to accept the desirability of countrywide rural planning
  • Restriction of Ribbon Development Act 1935, which was designed to prevent the sprawl of towns and cities across the countryside. 'Ribbon development' is linear development of long rows of buildings built along main roads leading out of towns

Town and country planning comes of age

The end of the Second World War brought consensus over the need for comprehensive planning to rebuild bombed out towns and cities and to help reorganise industry.

The Town and Country Planning Act 1947 introduced the basis of the system that we have today. It introduced two significant changes:

Local authorities now had to complete a local plan, setting out detailed policies and specific proposals for the development and use of land in a district. Land use would be controlled and planning permission would be required for development.

However some sectors, such as agriculture, were granted significant exemptions from planning controls, called permitted development rights, which still exist today.

After the 1947 Act, the system continued to evolve.

Important events include

  • 1955: The national Green Belt system is put in place to prevent urban sprawl (the first Green Belts were designated around London before the Second World War)
  • 1968: County structure plans are introduced to co-ordinate and guide local plans
  • 1988: Regional planning guidance is introduced to act as a strategic guide for county structure plans
  • 1990: The Town and Country Planning Act 1990. The act divides planning into forward planning and development control. Forward planning is about setting out the authority's strategy for the future - through a development plan - and development control is about controlling the development that happens
  • 1991: The Planning and Compensation Act 1991 amends the Town and Country Planning Act and introduces the plan-led system, affirming that planning applications should be decided in line with the development plan
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