Man has been planning and building New Towns since the earliest records of history. They have arisen for reasons of strategy, politics, colonial advancement, social welfare, philanthropy, and to ensure the preservation of older centres. The contemporary idea of building new towns has been welcomed as one of the most exciting features of urban development in Britain, but in fact it has been one of the most fertile grounds for the imaginations of thinkers, designers and reforrr1er s throughout the social history of man.

 

The limiting factor for the size of towns before the developrr1ent of the transportation networks of the second half of the nineteenth century was the need to supply food to their inhabitants. Thus it is found that the commonly accepted ideas of preserving a green agricultural belt around towns, and limiting the growth of towns by housing surplus populations in new communities are rooted in antiquity. Cecil Stewart notes that in the Gazeteer of the Times Atlas there are listed 11 some seventy English Newtowns or Newtons, some thirty German Neustadts, twenty-four French Villeneuves, twenty-three Spanish Villanuevas, and fifteen Italian Villanuovas

 

One of oldest directions for town building is found in the commands to Moses for the construction of cities for the Levites. 1 The cities were visualized as set in the centre of pasture land which had to be preserved for all tirr1e. The green belt idea thus dates at least from the thirteenth century B. C. The Greek City-State was also an early agency in giving rise to new towns.

 

The original cities were set up in defensible positions some distance from the sea, as the core of the 11 polis 11 , which included both town and country. As the cities grew stronger and more powerful and coastal raiding was suppressed, trading developed, and with it the need for ports. The first new towns of the city states were therefore founded as defensible harbour sites, often on rocky promontories, and peopled from the central cities.  The city of Miletus in Ionia for instance was one of the most active in founding other centres, whilst preserving its own coherent internal arrangernent.

 

By establishing a large number of colonial cities it became the head of an earl y and powerful confederacy in the fifth century B. C., stretching as far as Selinus on the southwest coast of Sicily. Miletus is of note because after it was sacked in 4 79 B. C. it was rebuilt by Hippodamus, on what is thought to be the first rectilinear plan in his tory. Following this, other cities rebuilt under the aegis of Miletus tended to follow the sante rectilinear form of construction, and so this form became dispersed at an early date.

 

Town planning is an ancient art, but it is only in the twentieth century that it has become recognised as a field in which the disciplines of architecture, engineering, sociology, geography, law, statistics, agriculture, surveying and estate management are blended to their best advantage. It is not suggested that a town planner should be a master of all these subjects the ideal planning process is an outcome of team work by people from all these disciplines. The planning process is divided into two stages.

 

Firstly there is the determination of broad policies, the decision of politicians, and secondly, the preparation and carrying through of plans in conformity with these policies -the function of town planners. This second stage has three clear phases; the survey, the formulation of the plan, and the implementation of the plan. The survey is always the first step in the preparation of a plan. It consista of an examination of ail the existing features of the planning area, its physical nature, relief, structure drainage, water resources, existing population, existing and prospective industrial development, communications and public utilities, and the agricultural quality of undeveloped land. From this body of information the plan can be formulated. First the major distribution and extent of land to be used for primary functions is determined, and then within this broad framework, the physical design can be undertaken. The plan must then be implemented by careful legislation, and thorough financial planning.

 

These three phases of the planning process are not clearly separated either in time or content. Planning is inevitably a slow and continuous process, particularly in old and well established urban centres. However in the case of the new towns of the London area, it is probably seen in its clearest and simplest form. Firstly a government decision was made to undertake the building of new towns to relieve population pressure in London. Through the process of survey, and in consultation with local government bodies, sites were selected which were considered suitable for development. Next, development corporations were set up and charged with surveying the chosen site thoroughly, and then preparing firstly an outline plan, and secondly detailed plans for residential neighbourhoods, industrial estates, commercial areas, parks, schools and so on.

 

The implementation of these plans was effected through the machinery set up in the New Towns Act 1946, which also embodied the financial provisions necessary to undertake such schemes. From this discussion of the planning process it is clearly seen that individuals with a certain academie background are more suited to some phases of the work than others. Thus economists, geographers, sociologists and statisticians are best qualified for the investigative aspects of planning, architects and engineer s for problems of design, and lawyers and estate managers for the administrative process.