Learning from the Contrasting Histories and Trajectories of Harlow and Thamesmead

Additional Team Members - Julia Deltoro Soto

British New Towns represent not a single homogeneous set of experiences, but lessons learned derive as much from their differences as their similarities. The chapter studies two British New Towns– Harlow and Thamesmead – identifying the main features of their master plans and analysing their trajectories and outcomes as actually built. Harlow could be regarded as a typical British New Town. Designated in 1947, it is one of the first New Towns built around London, following design principles of the first (Mark I) generation. In contrast, Thamesmead was built within the city limits of London, but could be included in the second generation of the New Towns. The towns’ plans have a number of commonalities, in the provision of green areas, employment, commercial areas and services for their population; but their locations, urban structure, land use and physical relation to their surroundings are quite different as they followed different concepts and evolving planning ideas. Even more striking contrast may be found in the way that these towns have grown and matured in different ways. This chapter therefore scrutinises the two towns’ plans, and what was actually built, drawing lessons for New Towns more generally.