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New Towns Come of Age

As part of the RTPI Centenary there was a celebration of the achievements of and learning from the UK's designated New Towns. The New Town programme reflected a spirit of social reconstruction after the Second World War and grew from the need to provide the population with both houses and jobs. Housing was an area in which the post-war Labour Government felt that it could achieve social unity. The aspirations of the initiative, with the emphasis on green and open quality and their successful balance between living and working, took inspiration from the garden city movement (Passmoor, 1969). Stevenage Summit II(the picture is of some of the attendees at New Towns Summit II at the heart of the first UK New Town, Stevenage)

As part of the Centenary celebrations, special Certificates have been presented to each New Town - as well as some other exemplar planned communities - to acknowledge their contribution to the evolution of the science and art of spatial planning.

Many of those listed were representated at the RTPI's New Towns' Summit held in Barry Parker's original Drawing Offices thanks to support from Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation (the notes from the Summit may be of interest). And a follow-up Summit II was held around town centre issues - kindly hosted in the first of the UK New Towns, Stevenage (and the notes from that event can be read here).

First Generation Towns

The 1946 New Towns Act established an ambitious programme for building new towns. It gave the Government power to designate areas of land for new town development. Stevenage, in Hertfordshire, was the first new town created under the Act, with ten others following in the 'first generation' programme. Many were intended to accommodate the overspill of population from London & Glasgow. But a number were built for other reasons: Aycliffe (1947), Cwmbran (1949) & Corby (1950) were designed to provide better quality housing for existing employment areas whilst Peterlee (1948) and Glenrothes (1948) were located in mining areas.

  • Stevenage, Hertfordshire (designated 1946)
  • Crawley, Sussex (designated 1947)
  • East Kilbride, Lanarkshire (designated 1947)
  • Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire (designated 1947)
  • Harlow, Essex (designated 1947)
  • Newton Aycliffe, County Durham (designated 1947)
  • Glenrothes, Fife (designated 1948)
  • Peterlee, County Durham (designated 1948)
  • Welwyn Garden City and Hatfield, Hertfordshire (both designated 1948)
  • Basildon, Essex (designated 1949)
  • Bracknell, Berkshire (designated 1949)
  • Cwmbran, Monmouthshire (now Torfaen) (designated 1949)
  • Corby, Northamptonshire (designated 1950)
  • Cumbernauld, North Lanarkshire (1955)

Second Generation Towns

During the second period (1961–66) two of the locations (Redditch and Dawley New Town — later renamed Telford) provided overspill for Birmingham and another two (Runcorn and Skelmersdale) were intended as overspill for the Liverpool. In Scotland Livingston continued with the need to address overspill from Glasgow.

  • Skelmersdale, Lancashire (designated 1961)     
  • Livingston, West Lothian (designated 1962)
  • Dawley, Shropshire (later became part of Telford) (designated 1963)    
  • Redditch, Worcestershire (designated 1964)
  • Runcorn, Cheshire (designated 1964)     
  • Washington, Tyne and Wear (designated 1964)
  • Irvine, North Ayrshire (designated 1966)

Third Generation Towns

The third and last programme of new towns (1967–70) sustained overspill provision and included, approximately halfway between Birmingham and London, the new town of Milton Keynes.


The RTPI is most grateful to Niall McChesney MRTPI(Rtd) for the initial research into the New Towns programme that facilitated this Centenary strand of activity.


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