landscape matters volume 3 - Flipbook - Page 24
Why we need planning
TOWN AND COUNTRY PLANNING, a book published in
1951 and written by Clough Williams-Ellis, sets out the need
for planning and the mechanisms introduced by the post war
government to achieve a more balanced approach to development. Planning for the benefit of all citizens including the
provision of 'gracious open spaces, parks, gardens and playing
fields'. Currently in 2021, this is also a time of great change
with ongoing Government proposals to reform the planning
system, but perhaps a time to reflect on the opportunities created in the past.
Clough Williams-Ellis was an architect of note and creator of
Portmeirion the 'Italianate' coastal village in Mid Wales, built
between 1926 - 1939. His aim was to demonstrate how a beautiful and natural landscape could be maintained and enhanced
as a backdrop through sympathetic development. Portmeirion,
also known as the location for the 1960s cult TV series The
Prisoner, is now owned by a charitable trust. The village comprises a cluster of colour-washed buildings around a central
piazza, a popular tourist destination with scenic surroundings,
extensive woodlands, two hotels, holiday cottages, spa, and
His passion for the natural landscape is reflected in his book.
This, with its plain blue cover and classic typography, traces the
history of the planning and organisation of human settlement.
Williams-Ellis concludes with the challenges of the post war
years in Britain and the urgent need for planning for people.
He bemoans and compares the beauty of Georgian London
Squares with the squalor of the towns which emerged as a result of the industrial revolution. Housing of this period, with its
many slums, developed through speculation and profit. Poor
housing that 'led to ill health, poor education and inefficiency'.
The need for reform to solve these problems had not been
achieved with the previous minimal building by-laws. The
phenomenon of urban sprawl continued into the 1920's and
1930's with'speculation and profit' again being the main
driving force, together with an increasing population, 80% of
whom now lived in towns and urban areas.
The combination of the town and country led to the suburb.
Hampstead Garden Suburb is given as an example of a well
co-ordinated and planned development 'which can still be
regarded with pride'. On a larger scale, the Garden City
movement led by Ebenezer Howard created the first new towns
'exemplified first by Letchworth and then more graciously
The Garden City movement created the first new towns
In 1951 the formation of the Ministry of Local Government and
Planning (formerly the Ministry of Town and Country Planning)
gave rise to regulated planning so putting an end to 'the
frightening mess resulting from an absence of planning'. The
mechanism and framework for this progressive change was
the 1947 Town and Country Planning Act. This with its amendments and additions is the foundation of the planning system
we have today.
In his final chapter Williams-Ellis describes the gathering
movement for change referring to the 'celebrated plans
prepared for London and Greater London by Sir Patrick
Abercrombie'. The County of London Plan was complied by
John Forshaw and Sir Patrick Abercrombie and published
in 1943, the wider regional Greater London Plan 1944 was
commissioned by the Ministry of Town and Country Planning
and published in 1945. Both of these plans identified issues
of overcrowding, poor housing in deprived neighbourhoods,
traffic congestion and inadequate provision of open space.
Abercrombie and Forshaw’s recommendations included the
separation of industry and housing, the enhancement of historical centres, an increase in open space and the building of
three ring roads to ensure the city’s connectivity. Many of these