Friday, 28 March 2014

Charley in New Town

If you haven’t seen this charming little film by the Central Office of Information on the British Government’s 1948 New Town strategy then you should have.

If Britain is to experience a wave of New Towns then where should they be built? Should they be built on virgin green land, retrofitted to existing low-density sprawl or built on existing brownfield sites? The second  two options are worthy of serious consideration. The wave of New Towns built after the War were not always built on entirely new green sites but were sometimes expansions of existing towns. Basingstoke was such a town. The ill-fated Eco Towns were proposed on land which was often brownfield former- military sites.

I wonder when was the last time the British Government made an animated film explaining its urban design policies?

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Bournville: an example of business-led urban design.

If I keep adding posts dealing with The Garden City Movement I fear  I will start repeating myself at least as far as the writing goes. Nevertheless even a generic form can allow for  fascinating, infinite  variations, providing lessons which are eternally relevant. For this reason I am posting a piece on Bournville, Birmingham’s great example of The Garden City Movement. This can be seen as a photo essay with perhaps similar postings to come.

                                               Typical semi-detached housing

Bournville was created by  George and Richard  Cadbury  who wished to relocate their chocolate factory from a cramped, city centre site to a location more amenable to expansion. They chose a site four miles from the centre of Birmingham well connected by the new railways and canals, close by the Bourn Brook.
The original move took place in 1879. In 1893, 120 acres of land was purchased to create a model village. By 1900, 313 cottages and houses had been built, at which stage ownership passed to the Bournville Village Trust.

                                 Shops with other uses above by the village green

                                                    Bournville Rest House

                                                     Bournville Primary School

                                               Bournville Center for Visual Arts

A factor of urban design which must always be considered in, of course, the economics of a  creation of a  proposal. We live in an age of small government whose most overriding concern often seems to be  shifting financial responsibility away from the public to the private. It is heartening to see a business-led development of such high quality. Businesses should take note that there are a huge number of benefits entailed when a development like this is undertaken. Firstly, naming a town after a company’s product generates a massive amount of favourable publicity for a company. Why, indeed, should the provision of things such as affordable housing and good schools be left to the government? Businesses with access to good financial resources should realise that provision for staff goes way beyond mere wages. Businesses which find it difficult to recruit high-quality staff could look at Bournville and see what is being offered here. I hesitate to use a word as  repellent as “lifestyle” and would rather focus on essential matters such as affordable housing and good schools.


                               Cadbury Factory with cricket pitch in the foreground


I think it clear that my photos convey what a remarkable achievement Bournville is. It has, as I never tire of saying, the four qualities that really make a neighbourhood; access to public transport, a walkable scale, a mixture of uses and public spaces of real quality.