New Town Utopia?
When World War II ended in 1945, the City of London was left ravaged and overcrowded, with dense patches of poverty spilling out across the city. To help alleviate housing shortages and suffering left behind from the war, the City of London passed the New Towns Act in 1946. The purpose of the New Towns Act was to create eight purpose-built towns within 80km of London, designed as pristine utopias. The towns were centred around family life and secure employment, with the Reith Commission outlining the following principles of the plan:
- New Town Developments will not exceed populations of 50,000
- Towns should be built as far as possible on greenfield sites
- Towns should consist of predominantly low density single family housing
- Homes should be organized in neighborhoods, with a focus on providing a safe environment for children. Schools should be built within 400 yards of every home.
- Neighborhoods should be mixed use with schools, pubs, and grocery markets nearby.
- There should be a balance of housing and jobs.
A 1948 commercial shares the attractive promise of the New Town Developments
Between 1947-1950, ten New Towns were built during the first wave of the project, creating an immediate housing supply at a time of dire need. Today, these New Towns no longer live up to the glory of the Garden City-inspired utopias they once used to be. Although designed to stand the test of time, many of these towns now hold reputations of blandness- certainly trailing far from their post-war glory days. New Town Utopia, a documentary from Christopher Ian Smith, takes us inside Basildon, one of New Towns built as a part of the first wave. The film is comprised of reminiscent interviews from longstanding residents who share their experience of New Town life, allowing a glimpse into one of the UK’s most acclaimed urban planning endeavors at the time.
Have a look at the trailer below and watch out for New Town Utopia at a theatre near you!
Image from SkyDivedParcel via Flickr