Green belts, intervention to protect communities … oh brave new world

September 1949

Town and country planning

The amendment of the development charge regulations, the prevention of new industrial establishments and extensions in congested areas, and the desirability of closer co-ordination between government departments responsible for various aspects of development in their claims for land use are referred to in a statement on the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947.

The act has been in operation since 1 July 1948. It may be that the main powers of control, now entrusted to fewer and larger authorities, are working as well as could be expected at this stage.

There is, however, much criticism of certain features of the revised planning system. Some of this is justified. But it is vital that in any discussion of possible amendments of the act, or procedures under it, the national purpose that it is intended to serve, and that have been approved by all parties, should be kept clearly in mind.

Among the purposes of highest economic and social importance are the following:

1. Rebuilding bombed and blighted areas with better living and working conditions and more space. This means some displacing of crowded people and industry.

2. Preserving green belts round cities, and good farm land, from undue suburban spread and sporadic building.

3. Controlling various kinds of development so that residential and business premises and other types of building are neither mixed nor too widely separated but well grouped to serve social and economic needs.

4. Improving amenities by better design, planting and prevention of disfigurement.

It was amply proved that pre-war planning powers could not achieve these purposes. In particular the unavoidable effect of planning restrictions on land values was an obstacle to some of the most essential aims; as, for example, preserving green belts or specifying more open space in redevelopments.

Criticism of the planning control powers under the act focuses on uncertainties as to local intentions and delays in decisions. But there is no reason to doubt that the control machinery is suited to its purpose and can be made to work well.

It should be realised that the holding up of many desired developments is not the result of town planning but to the necessity of limiting the amount and classes of building in the present economic circumstances. Town planning does not decide the rate of development. It is concerned that such development as is possible should be carried out in the most suitable places and in the best way.

The public outcries that consistently arise against particular pieces of developments do, in fact, emphasise the necessity of planning.