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The New Towns - 1980 general progress report and individual report for Basildon


The first new towns were begun in the late 1940s. Most of them were set in the open countryside 25 or 30 miles from London at Stevenage, Crawley, Hemel Hempstead, Harlow, Hatfield, Welwyn Garden City, Basildon and Bracknell. Their purpose was to provide homes, employment and a healthy new environment for people from London's overcrowded and worn out inner districts, which were then to be rebuilt to provide better standards for family life and business activity. During the same period Corby was established in the Midlands, Newton Aycliffe and Peterlee in the north east of England, East Kilbride and Glenrothes in Scotland, and Cwmbran in Wales. The target populations of these "first generation" new towns were about 50,000, reflecting the views of the planners of the time as to the optimum size for a community.

Apart from the establishment of Cumbernauld in 1955, there were no further designations until 1961 when the first of the second generation new towns was started at Skelmersdale. Skelmersdale was to help relieve congestion in the Merseyside conurbation, as was Runcorn, designated in 1964. Washington was also designated in 1964 to help improve living conditions and to stimulate economic growth in the Tyneside area. Redditch and Dawley (later to be enlarged and redesignated as Telford) were established primarily to deal with overspill from the West Midlands conurbation. In Scotland Livingston was begun during the first half of the 60s as a growth centre for the Lothians.

The latter part of the 1960s and the early 1970s saw the designations of the 'third generation' new towns, Irvine, Milton Keynes, Peterborough, Northampton, Warrington, Telford and Central Lancashire. Population forecasts at the time indicated increases of several millions in two decades; the new new towns would ensure that some of this increase was accommodated outside the existing conurbations and would stimulate new industry and employment. Milton Keynes was the only one planned to be a large new town. The others were to provide for the expansion and associated renewal of existing large towns rather than the creation of new ones. They all had much larger target populations than their first and second generation predecessors. Towards the end of the 70s the birthrate dropped and population forecasts were reduced, though some growth was still expected and forecasts of household growth remained very high. Partly for this reason, and also to release resources for inner city renewal, the Government reduced the target populations of the third generation new towns in 1977.

In Northern Ireland separate legislation provided for the establishment of Craigavon new town. Its designation was followed by the designation of areas for expansion around the existing towns of Antrim and Ballymena. At the same time the Government of Northern Ireland designated Londonderry as a new town to help it to overcome difficult economic problems. The commissions set up to develop these Northern Ireland new towns were later dissolved and their responsibilities were transferred to other Government agencies.

Many of the earlier new towns have completed their development programmes or are approaching completion. In seven of them, Corby, Crawley, Harlow, Hatfield, Hemel Hempstead, Stevenage and Welwyn Garden City, the development corporations have been dissolved. Their housing has been transferred to the local authorities and the rest of their assets to the Commission for the New Towns, which had been set up in the early 1960s for the purpose of managing the assets of completed towns.

The other first and second generation English new town development corporations will be dissolved in the 1980s as they complete their tasks. The programmes of the third generation new towns in England are expected to continue into the latter half of the decade. No dates have been fixed for the winding up of any of the Scottish development corporations nor of Cwmbran in Wales.

The success of the new towns is attributable in no small measure to the administrative machinery set up for them. The New Towns Acts enable the Government, in the interests of the nation, to ensure a town's development. The first English Act was passed in 1946, the Act providing for the Commission for the New Towns in 1959. They were consolidated in 1965. An Amendment Act in 1976 paved the way for the transfer of corporation owned housing to the local housing authorities. Parallel legislation has governed the development of the new towns in Scotland.

The New Towns Act enables the Secretary of State to designate an area as a new town and to appoint a development corporation to carry out the work. The development corporation borrows the money from Central Government, acquires the land, services it with infrastructure and then promotes the development of the new town. It employs the necessary staff to carry out its remit; at the height of the development programme this can amount to several hundred people.

A development corporation comprises a chairman, a deputy chairman and up to eleven other members. In appointing them the Secretary of State consults the local authorities and is required to include people with local knowledge on the board. Good relations between the development corporation and the local authorities and the other public agencies are of great importance. Development corporations do not in any way supersede the local authorities and public agencies who continue to be responsible for expanding their services to facilitate and to support the new town's growth.

Because a new town is a new community of new people in a new place the plan for its development is set out in terms of population and land. It considers the two together, the geography of the area and its surrounding region together with the population and the existing economy and communications network, taking account of the responsibilities of the existing authorities. It sets out what the development corporation hopes to achieve, where people will live and work and shop, where the open spaces and leisure areas will be, how roads and other transport facilities will fit in, and where other necessary facilities such as schools and hospitals will be built.

More than a million people have moved into the new towns of Britain. They now have a total population of more than two million, or 3½% of the population of the entire country. On present projections they will house two and a half million, or nearly 4½% of the population of the country, by the time their accelerated growth is complete. 4,000 new employers have provided jobs for more than a quarter of a million people in the new towns. 400,000 new houses and flats have been built for them. 712 schools provide for the education of children in new towns. Well over 5,000 new shops have opened for business in the town centres and in their neighbourhood centres.

While changing social and economic circumstances have inevitably led Governments towards a smaller New Towns' programme, the efficacy of the machinery embodied in the New Towns' Act has been recognised in new legislation for the creation of Urban Development Corporations with stronger powers than New Town Development Corporations. It is the Government's intention that these Corporations will be able to bring to the problem areas in old cities and towns the same degree of effective intervention, co-ordination and action to implement plans which has characterised the New Town Development Corporations.


Essex, London 30 miles (48 km). On the A13 and the A127.

Development Corporation Offices: Gifford House, Basildon, SS13 2EX.
Telephone: Basildon (0268) 553261.

the town

Basildon is five miles inland from the north bank of the Thames estuary. Depression in agriculture before World War 1 led to the division of larger farms into smaller plots which were purchased, often by Londoners, as sites for weekend cottages and huts. There was scant regard for planning; roads, sewers and other services were often lacking. Despite this, some of the dwellings came to be used as permanent homes and shopping centres grew up at Pitsea and Laindon. After World War II the area had about 25,000 inhabitants.

In 1949, 7,818 acres (3,165 hectares) between Pitsea and Laindon were designated as Basildon New Town. The Development Corporation's task was, and still is, to redevelop the sub-standard areas to provide for London's overspill. Today the population of the town is 98,000; by the year 2000 it is expected to be about 130,000.

The town is planned in 23 neighbourhoods, each with its local shops, schools and other places of assembly. Nearly 25,000 dwellings have been completed together with shops, churches, public houses and community buildings. The first phase of a new sub-town centre has been completed at Laindon; and at Pitsea there is a similar development including a new department store of 120,000 sq.ft. (11,500 sq.m.) and a large grocery chain store.

16,700 jobs have been created on two industrial estates totalling approximately 280 acres (113 hectares). A third industrial area of 100 acres (40 hectares) is occupied by the Ford Motor Company who have built a 1,000,000 sq.ft. (93,000 sq.m.) tractor factory employing a further 4,700 people. And the new Burnt Mills industrial area, some 37 hectares of advance factory units, nursery units and mini-factories, is developing rapidly in the north east. Roads and services are under construction to an adjoining 13 acre (5½ hectare) Nore warehouse site. Yet another industrial estate is being built at Laindon North.

Basildon town centre is rapidly acquiring regional importance for shopping and recreation. It now has 205 shops, including a national chain department store and large supermarket, together with office blocks, twin cinemas, a bowling and bingo centre, pubs, restaurants, a Mecca dance hall, a swimming pool and an arts centre with a hall seating 500. A church, a head post office, a main telephone exchange, county ambulance and fire stations, a health clinic, a police station and bus station have all been completed. The first phase of Basildon's town centre expansion scheme is nearly complete with a large SavaCentre store, owned jointly by two national chain stores, already open. The expansion scheme will increase the town centre shopping facilities by 50% in the 1980s.

The district general hospital, the College of Further Education, a family recreation centre including a 120 bedroom hotel, an 18 hole golf course, an equestrian centre and a squash club are all within easy reach of the town centre.

Title: The New Towns

Publisher: Prepared and edited by the New Towns Association. Printed in England 1981.

Comments: The New Towns is a booklet sized publication containing 28 progress reports relating to each of the new towns. The introduction and Basildon progress report contained within the publication is reproduced in its entirety, unedited and unabridged.

Although not mentioned by name some of the facilities referred to were: Aquatels recreation centre and Essex Centre Hotel at Pipps Hill; Longwood Equestrian Centre at Dry Street, Langdon Hills; Basildon Bowl in Southernhay and the ABC cinemas in the town centre. The two national stores operating SavaCentre were Sainsbury's and British Home Stores (BHS).

The twenty nine New Towns in 1980 in order of designation comprise:

England (first generation 1946-1950)

Stevenage (Hertfordshire). Designated: 11th November 1946.

Crawley (Sussex). Designated: 9th January 1947.

Hemel Hempstead (Hertfordshire). Designated: 4th February 1947.

Harlow (Essex). Designated: 25th March 1947.

Newton Aycliffe (Durham). Designated: 19th April 1947.

Peterlee (Durham). Designated: 10th March 1948.

Hatfield (Hertfordshire). Designated: 20th May 1948.

Welwyn Garden City (Hertfordshire). Designated: 20th May 1948.

Basildon (Essex). Designated: 4th January 1949.

Bracknell (Berkshire). Designated: 17th June 1949.

Corby (Northamptonshire). Designated: 1st April 1950.

Wales (first generation)

Cwmbran (Monmouthshire). Designated: 4th November 1949.

Scotland (first generation)

East Kilbride (Lanarkshire). Designated: 6th May 1947.

Glenrothes (Fifeshire). Designated: 30th June 1948.

Cumbernauld (Dunbartonshire). Designated: 9th December 1955.

England (second generation 1961-1964)

Skelmersdale (Lancashire). Designated: 9th October 1961.

Dawley (Shropshire). Designated: 16th January 1963 and renamed Telford from 29th November 1968 (The Dawley New Town (Designation) Amendment (Telford) Order 1968.

Redditch (Worcestershire). Designated: 10th April 1964.

Runcorn (Cheshire). Designated: 10th April 1964.

Washington (Tyne and Wear). Designated: 24th July 1964.

Wales (third generation)

Newtown (Powys). Designated: 18th December 1967.

England (third generation 1967-1970)

Milton Keynes (Buckinghamshire). Designated: 23rd January 1967.

Peterborough (Cambridgeshire). Designated: 21st July 1967.

Northampton (Northamptonshire). Designated: 14th February 1968.

Warrington (Cheshire). Designated: 26th April 1968.

Telford (Shropshire). Designated: 29th November 1968. See Dawley second generation entry.

Central Lancashire (Lancashire). Designated: 26th March 1970.

Scotland (second generation 1962) (third generation 1966-1973)

Livingston (Midlothian & West Lothian). Designated: 16th April 1962.

Irvine (North Ayrshire). Designated: 9th November 1966.

Stonehouse (South Lanarkshire). Designated: 17th July 1973. Never completed, less than 100 houses built.

Northern Ireland (1965-1969)

Separate legislation not covered by the New Towns Act allowed for the designation of new towns in Northern Ireland.

Craigavon (County Antrim). Designated: 26th July 1965. Never completed in its original form.

Antrim (County Antrim). Designated: 7th July 1966.

Ballymena (County Antrim). Designated: 22nd August 1967.

Derry (County Londonderry). Designated: 5th February 1969.

Page added: 16/06/2017
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