New Town failures not examined

11-07-2008

New Town failures not examined
Plans to create ten new eco-towns have ignored lessons from the last wave of new towns after the Second World War.

A new report – issued today by the Department for Communities and Local Government committee (CLG) – finds the creation and impact of the new conurbations was never fully evaluated, despite plans to create three million new homes by 2020.

Particular concern was raised with regard to proposals to create a series of eco-towns, before completing serious analysis of previous developments.

"The government has embarked on a massive regeneration programme, aiming to deliver three million new homes by 2020. It would be an act of folly not to spend a small sum on trying to learn the lessons of history in order to prevent past mistakes being repeated," said committee chair, Dr Phyllis Starkey.

Specifically, communication issues were cited as a particular concern.

The committee points out that each New Town was built at around the same time, so the majority of the infrastructure of each town is reaching the end of its design life at the same time.

Whereas other urban areas may have pockets of infrastructure now needing renewal, New Towns face the prospect of their entire infrastructure requiring refurbishment at once.

MPs warn if those needs are not recognised there is a danger they will fall into social decay and physical dereliction.

"The experience of the New Towns can teach us a lot about how we should approach the long-term planning of current and future large-scale urban development such as the 'eco-town' programme and the Growth Areas," added Dr Starkey.

Between 1946 and 1970, 32 new towns were established to provide new homes and jobs following the ravages of WWII.

The towns – which include Milton Keynes, Hemel Hempstead, and Stevenage - were based on the ideals developed earlier in the century by Ebenezer Howard’s garden city movement.

This movement sought to create better environments for people away from the smog and cramped conditions in inner urban areas, based on a utopian vision provided by novel Looking Backward.

A full assessment of their impact is also urged by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics).

"A full assessment of the positives and negatives of New Towns must be carried out before final decisions are taken on the eco-town proposals," argued Rics policy officer James Rowlands.

"Evaluating new towns to identify problems and successes could help new schemes avoid falling into the same social and economic problems.

"It is essential that the government learns the lessons of the past before embarking on the construction of eco-towns."

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