Radical spirit driving the planners of the UK New Towns programme revealed

NTR promotional card design croppedWe’ve just published a new report revealing first-hand accounts of five major figures involved in creating the UK’s New Towns. Drawing on original archive interview material, the report offers an intriguing insight into the challenges they faced in creating communities from scratch.

The report “Planning the New Towns – In Their Own Words”, edited by Morwen Johnson, makes publicly available for the first time, five interviews carried out in the 1980s and 1990s with those directly involved. As they reflect on their experience we can sense pride, as well as a touch of bemusement at the scale of the programme that they were part of delivering.

The 33 New Towns planned since 1946 represent the most sustained programme of new town development undertaken anywhere in the world. Today, they are home to over three million people.

The New Towns Programme drew on the expertise and enthusiasm of a group of committed and visionary planners and architects. As well as being the driving force behind specific New Town schemes, many of these individuals became major figures in the development of late 20th century architecture and town planning in the UK.

The interview material features:

  • Lord Campbell of Eskan –“I was really astonished how fortunate we were that we weren’t lynched in the streets with the appalling upheaval that it meant”
  • Walter Bor, CBE – “Cities must absorb change, live with it, rather than prohibit it”
  • Professor Derek Walker – “I am optimistic that mediocrity is not an inherent British trait”
  • Sir George Grenfell-Baines –“One of the aspects which makes the British New Town Movement unique is the public money that was actually put into it.”
  • Sir David Gosling –“The corporate spirit of the team was legendary and it was probably its interdisciplinary structure which assisted in its radical thinking”

This report celebrates the life-long commitment and vision which the planning profession brings to place-making. It also represents a historical narrative of the radical spirit that inspired those who built the New Towns.


Idox Knowledge Exchange is the research and intelligence arm of Idox, a major supplier of software and services to the public sector. Its products, which include iApply, the Idox Information Service and Scottish Planning and Environmental Law Journal, have been helping planning organisations across the UK public and private sectors for over forty years.

This publication draws on interview material collected for the New Towns Record. This was a unique archive resource bringing together primary and secondary research materials on the UK New Towns programme. Created in the mid-1990s, it included in-depth interviews with over 80 key practitioners and academics. It was produced on DVD and is no longer available for sale.

Thirty-two New Towns were designated in the United Kingdom between 1946 and 1970 (plus the later abandoned Stonehouse). Of these 32 New Towns, 21 were in England, two in Wales, five in Scotland and four in Northern Ireland.

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