The Planning System


As we explained in Chap. 2, the origins of planning in Britain are generally traced from nineteenth century reaction against the squalor of industrial cities, the introduction of basic public health principles and then the promotion of more utopian visions for healthy housing and communities, inspired by the model schemes of philanthropists. Whilst these ideas had great currency in the early years of the twentieth century, the various legislative attempts at providing for town planning schemes were notably unsuccessful in the interwar period (Cullingworth and Nadin 1994, chap. 1). These schemes for regulatory zoning control were cumbersome, incomplete and ineffective at directing change, partly because of the problem of compensation (landowners had to be compensated if their land was zoned for a lower-valued use) and partly because of the fiscal incentives local authorities had to facilitate development (in the absence of equalisation grants). At the same time, the country experienced in the 1930s an unprecedented tide of suburbanising development, which reconfigured the urban form (‘sprawl’ and ‘ribbon development’ being terms commonly used) and, along with the development of motorised road transport, threw up major new issues of congestion. World War II highlighted the need to rebalance economic development across the country, whilst also demonstrating the feasibility of much more directive government control of economic and social life.

The stage was therefore set for establishing a more comprehensive and effective system, with a clearer vision for the kinds of urban development and renewal that would be needed post-war. This was enacted through the Town and Country Planning Act 1947and other parallel legislation on New Towns, Distribution of Industry, National Parks and Countryside. The essential character of the system established then has been maintained through subsequent consolidating and updating legislation, particularly the 1990 Town and Country Planning and the 1991 Planning and Compensation Acts.

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