Experts call for heritage value of post-war New Towns to be recognised, as Parliament debate

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Milton Keynes 800x450

Heritage and architecture experts from across the UK are calling for the heritage value of the post-war new towns in the UK and Europe to be recognised and included in plans for future growth and regeneration.

This comes as Parliament debate the challenges facing new towns in Westminster Hall on Wednesday 12 July. 

As part of the New Towns Heritage Network, academics from Oxford Brookes University and Coventry University are currently leading a series of events and seminars which bring together planners, architects, academics and civil society organisations to examine New Town heritage and consider how it can play a positive role in new town civic identity and future development.

New Town heritage includes not only some outstanding buildings, architecture and sculptures – which are often considered to be dated and controversial - but also the legacy of New Town Master Plans, green wedges and landscaping, and neighbourhood clusters.

All of this contributes to the value of the towns as a place to live and work, but also to their sense of history and place.

Dr Bob Colenutt, School of the Built Environment, Oxford Brookes University

Dr Bob Colenutt from the School of the Built Environment at Oxford Brookes University, who is leading the project, said: “There are intense debates about the value of the heritage of New Towns happening both in the UK and Europe, partially because the heritage of these towns is in need of refurbishment, renewal and is increasingly under threat of demolition.

“New Town heritage includes not only some outstanding buildings, architecture and sculptures – which are often considered to be dated and controversial - but also the legacy of New Town Master Plans, green wedges and landscaping, and neighbourhood clusters. 

“All of this contributes to the value of the towns as a place to live and work, but also to their sense of history and place.

“The 70th anniversary of Harlow and 50th anniversary of Milton Keynes this year has opened up a wider public examination of the architectural and planning heritage in the New Towns and we are calling on policy makers to celebrate and incorporate this important heritage value in 21st century plans.”

The first New Towns Heritage Network event took place as part of Milton Keynes’ 50th anniversary celebrations in January 2017. In June 2017, Harlow’s heritage value, highlighting the Master Planning and architecture of Sir Frederick Gibberd was celebrated. Speakers included Dr Elain Harwood a renowned expert on post war architecture and Dr Christine Manley, a writer on the life and work of Frederick Gibberd.

The aims of the New Towns Heritage Network are to contribute to the contemporary academic and policy debate about the heritage value of New Town and ultimately, improve the architectural understanding and evaluation of New Town heritage in the UK and Europe as a key contributor to the sustainability of these places. With the unique mix of researchers, the project will develop a cross-sectoral methodology for New Town Heritage research and policy action.

Events are due to take place in Peterborough, Oxford and Almere in The Netherlands.