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The New Towns - 1963 general progress report and individual report for Basildon


There are now eighteen new towns in Britain, some only just starting and some well advanced towards completion. The planning and building of each town is the responsibility of a development corporation appointed under the New Towns Act, 1946, and charged with the duty of creating a town in which people can live, work and spend their leisure in pleasant surroundings. The development corporations are financed by the Government, but private enterprise provides some of the factories, shops and houses.

Eight of the towns - Basildon, Bracknell, Crawley, Harlow, Hatfield, Hemel Hempstead, Stevenage and Welwyn Garden City - lie in open country twenty to thirty miles from London. Their special purpose is to provide homes with work near at hand for some half a million people who would otherwise be living in crowded conditions in London or travelling long distances to work. Three other new towns - Newton Aycliffe, and Peterlee in County Durham, and Corby in Northamptonshire - offer solutions to problems created by the particular needs of local industries. A new town at Skelmersdale in Lancashire will take families from Merseyside, and Dawley in Shropshire, only recently designated, will do the same for Birmingham and the Black Country. The welsh new town, Cwmbran in Monmouthshire, serves local industry. There are four new towns in Scotland - Cumbernauld, East Kilbride, Glenrothes and Livingston - mainly designed to relieve overcrowding in Glasgow.

The scale of this enterprise is unique in the history of Britain, and nothing comparable has been undertaken elsewhere.

Most of the towns are planned with a number of residential neighbourhoods, each with its own schools, shops and social facilities, and all within easy reach of the industrial areas essential to every new town. Parks and playing-fields are conveniently sited for general use, and in the town centre are to be found the public buildings offices and principal shops, with ample car parks close by. Each town is developing its own distinctive features and special character. Most of those attracted to the new towns are the younger wage earners, but as the towns grow provision is made for all classes and callings, and for all ages.

The proportion of families is considerably higher than in the older towns, and the healthy appearance of the children is one of the most refreshing features of these new and lively communities.

The most important factor in the success of the new towns is the provision of employment. Already nearly 16 million square feet of new factory space have been built, and offices, research laboratories and branches of government departments are established in the towns. Most of them can still offer attractive sites or buildings on reasonable terms for the wide variety of industrial and commercial business which will afford wide scope for the growing number of young people leaving school each year and seeking employment. Office organisations will be particularly welcome and will find the new towns a valuable source of staff recruitment.

The Commission for the New Towns has been established under the New Towns Act 1959, to take over new towns in England and Wales from the development corporations when their purposes have been substantially achieved. Crawley and Hemel Hempstead have reached that point, having come to the end of the first stage of rapid development and transfer of population, and they will now become consolidated by the natural increase of their population. The Commission has taken over both towns, and the development corporations have been dissolved.

In addition to those mentioned above, proposals for three further new towns in England were announced in February 1963 - at Redditch near Birmingham, at Runcorn near Liverpool, and on a site to be selected near Manchester.


Essex (London 30 miles. On main roads A13 and A127)
Planned population: 106,000
Chairman: Sir Humfrey Gale KBE, CB, CVO, MC
General Manager: R.C.C. Boniface
Development Corporation offices: Gifford House, Basildon, Essex. (N B Gifford House is outside the designated area)
Telephone: Vange 3261/8

the town

Until the turn of the century the designated area of Basildon New Town, compromising some 7,818 acres, was rather indifferent farm land flanking the north bank of the Thames. The direct railway line from Fenchurch Street to Shoeburyness laid down in 1888, bisected the area from west to east. The depression in agriculture led to the splitting up of the larger farms into small plots which were bought up by Londoners for building weekend cottages and huts. In this process little regard was paid to the most elementary principles of planning, the roads and sewers and other services were for the most part lacking.

Because of the housing shortage many of these dwellings came to be used as permanent homes, for which purpose they were quite unsuited. Small shopping centres grew up at Pitsea at the eastern end of the area, and Laindon at its western end, and by 1949, when the Development Corporation was appointed, the area had about 25,000 inhabitants. The Corporation's task is to redevelop these areas as part of a new town designed to house ultimately about 106,000 people.

The town will consist of ten neighbourhoods, each with its own local shops, schools and other places of assembly. Development in six of the neighbourhoods is well advanced, and so far over 11,000 dwellings have been built, housing some 35,000 people, mostly from London. Four neighbourhood shopping centres have been completed, together with churches, public houses and community buildings.

An industrial estate of about 200 acres is almost full up, affording varied employment for some 10,000 workers. A second industrial estate is in course of development, with some factories already occupied and others under construction, while a third industrial area of 100 acres is to be occupied by the Ford Motor Company who are building a factory with a production area of well over a million square feet. It is here that they propose to concentrate their tractor production.

The first town-centre shops and the open-air market were opened in 1958. There are now 150 shops in the town centre which also boasts of a bowling centre (incorporating a restaurant and club room) and a ballroom, and is gradually acquiring regional importance for shopping and recreation. A feature of the town centre is a 14-storey block of flats overlooking the town square with its fountain and trees, and the next few years will see a succession of public buildings under construction.

arrangements for visitors

Visitors should get in touch with the Development Corporation in advance, when arrangements will be made to show them round.

how to get there

By train from Fenchurch Street station to Pitsea, thence by local 'bus or taxi'. By road along A127 to the industrial area, turning right at the roundabout outside the Marconi factory on the south side of the road.

Title: The New Towns

Publisher: Prepared by the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, the Scottish Development Department and the Central Office of Information 1963.

Comments: The New Towns is a booklet sized publication containing 18 progress reports relating to each of the new towns. The foreword and Basildon progress report contained within the publication is reproduced in its entirety, unedited and unabridged.

Lieutenant General Sir Humfrey Myddelton Gale KBE, CB, CVO, MC (04/10/1890 – 08/04/1971)
Raymond Cyril Charles Boniface (09/07/1911 - 28/05/1999). Chief solicitor to Basildon Development Corp. from October 1949 and General Manager from 1954-1975.

The eighteen New Towns in 1963 comprise: Basildon (Essex); Bracknell (Berkshire); Corby (Northamptonshire); Crawley (Sussex); Dawley (Shropshire) Designated: 16th January 1963 and renamed Telford from 29th November 1968 (The Dawley New Town (Designation) Amendment (Telford) Order 1968; Harlow (Essex); Hatfield (Hertfordshire); Hemel Hempstead (Hertfordshire); Newton Aycliffe (Durham); Peterlee (Durham); Skelmersdale (Lancashire) Designated: 9th October 1961; Stevenage (Hertfordshire); Welwyn Garden City (Hertfordshire); Cwmbran (Monmouthshire, Wales); Cumbernauld (Dunbartonshire, Scotland); East Kilbride (Lanarkshire, Scotland); Glenrothes (Fifeshire, Scotland) and Livingston (Midlothian & West Lothian, Scotland) Designated: 16th April 1962.

Page added: 04/05/2017
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