Planning for Cities - Then and Now

Essay, 2016

5 Pages, Grade: 80%


Post-war redevelopment in Manchester pivoted around the regions industrial foreground and any concluding changes affected residential regeneration and the wealth of the industrial communities within them. An important consideration for City Surveyor and Engineer, Rowland Nicolas who aimed for ‘radical improvements… in our living and working conditions’ (Nicholas, 1945, p. 1). On the other hand, despite a required need for development remaining fixed on Manchester’s agenda in 2012, the monetary drive towards growing a sustainable economy headlines the recovery process from a global financial crisis that announced itself four years earlier.

Between the 1945 Planning Committee and the City Council of 2012, their approach to the issues regarding planning for Manchester will be discussed in their response to industry and housing. Comparing these Plans will address the concerns planners worked to resolve in the different sectors and more importantly, it will uncover the different planning methods used to combat the relevant growth or decline in these areas of planning policy.

‘Between 1820 and 1830 the number of warehouses in Manchester increased from 126 to over a thousand’ (Hewitt, 1996, p. 30) and although events thereafter stunted this expansion, it remained definite that the prosperity of industry would be reinstated into a city attacked by warfare. A problem unopposed to the City Council of 2012.

Implemented within the twentieth-century, ‘The war generated a flurry of plans for towns and cities across the country, large and small, industrial and historic, bombed and undamaged’ (Pendlebury, 2015, p. 24) as the country looked for post-war national stability. This period was seen as an ‘opportunity to strengthen and balance’ Manchester’s ‘industrial structure’ (Nicholas, 1945, p. 83) also closely relating to the issues of employment, housing and economic growth. A sample of this being the Distribution of Industry Act, 1945, which despite its limitations, contained ‘new provisions for the positive encouragement of new industry… including specially built factories, ready-built factories for occupation at low rents, investment grants for the installation of new equipment, and loans’ (Tewdwr-Jones, 2011, p. 67). These ‘traditional employment premises’ (Manchester City Council, 2012, p. 37) are a mutual point of focus across both development Plans. Recognised in the Plan of 1945 as being a former industrial powerhouse, both schemes attend to the interest of growing Manchester’s industries for the benefit of its economic development. Nicholas anticipated the emergence of new enterprises from the coming together of ‘a number of new industries having natural links with those already in being’ (Nicholas, 1945, p. 86) - a union benefitting both parties. One of few advertisements being the ‘development of plastics in association with the textile industry… as the manufacture of sound-absorbent wall linings from a combination of textiles, new plastics and fibre-boards’ (Nicholas, 1945, p. 86) and in introducing these new industries, labour requirements aimed to align themselves with the new enterprises brought forward as Nicholas was fixed on maximising employment.

The concern for industries has since shifted towards ‘improving access to employment’ (Manchester City Council, 2012, p. 39) compared to previous concerns for the development of industry contextualized in the progression of its manufacturing.

‘Knowledge Based Industries’ (Manchester City Council, 2012, p. 37) have driven post-millennium growth in the city. According to Policy EC1, the allocation of Manchester’s development between 2010 and 2027 would be distributed across ‘Offices - (140ha)’, ‘Research and Development and Industry - (25ha)’ and ‘Distribution and Warehousing - (35ha)’ (Manchester City Council, 2012, pp. 37-38) principally showing the advancement of Manchester’s financial industries with 70% proposed development committed to office space. Prioritised in accordance with these proposals are the accessibility improvements for residential areas - an opportunity also to encourage an environmentally conscious approach to travel, a consideration unperturbed by Nicholas and his team of post-war developers at that time. Yet despite a ‘workforce of 7.2 million people within an hour’s commute of the city centre’ (MIDAS, 2014), thoughts still harbour in the fact of work being foremost accessible.

After all, employment barriers were not deduced to the limitations of travel, rather they were informed of the challenge ‘ensuring that young people in Manchester are able to develop the necessary skills to take advantage of the employment opportunities being created around them’ (Manchester City Council, 2012, p. 40).

A distinction of the times being that in 1945, planners offered an ‘unrivalled pool of skilled and semiskilled labour’ (Nicholas, 1945, p. 83) as labour requirements were met to achieve stability against a battled workforce for the enhancement of manufacturing. Whereas planners of 2012 prioritised growth in their ‘labour force’ to ‘attract investment’ and ‘improve skills’ (Manchester City Council, 2012, p. 37) in a reality of increasing capitalist investment.

Residential developments moved in accordance with fluctuations in the industrial city and in 1945, the need to plan was directed by the ‘pressing and unavoidable obligation to provide anew for the tens of thousands of our citizens who are living and working in unsafe, unhealthy, outworn and overcrowded buildings’ (Nicholas, 1945, p. 1). Although the housing objectives of 2012 are less immediate in their demand, there remains a need to ‘provide homes which are more affordable…to revitalise communities and ensure areas become “Neighbourhoods of Choice” with the increased population’ (Manchester City Council, 2012, p. 97). In response to housing concerns, the practical solutions put forward in 1945, alongside those of 2012, reflect the scale of the obstacles both planning committees had to overcome. Yet despite the fact ‘war damage, shortage of building resources and rent restriction policies increased the problem of old and inadequate housing’ (Webb, 2015, p. 426), post-war planning aimed to improve housing standards and the living conditions they influenced. Furthermore, ‘Town planning was not just place-specific; it was inescapably linked with questions of distribution and equity’ (Cherry, 1988, p. 104) as proactive measures were in place to reduce the social segregation brought to light in twentieth century planning. Decentralisation evidenced the change in town planning policy between the issuing of both Manchester Plans, transferring whole communities to new-towns around the urban core in hope of characterising a social and economic upturn.

Slum clearance therefore marked the beginning of combating housing degradation and a lifestyle

synonymous with unsanitary overcrowding and ill-health associations and in leading up to this, ‘the government intervened twice in the housing system, both times dramatically, and has gone on doing so ever since’ (Cherry, 1974, p. 58).

The Housing, Town Planning, Etc. Act, 1919, a timely intervention by British housing policy makers, was promptly acted upon by the city’s authorities as Manchester admitted to having ‘68,000 houses described as “grossly unfit” by 1959’ (Moss, 2013). Under this legislation, Local Authorities were requested to provide adequate housing. A provision for the working-class, council housing presented itself a solution to the betterment of municipal housing. Moreover, ‘The pre-war policy tradition had been rooted in the ‘sanitary approach’ involving honourable but ineffective attempts to regulate overcrowding and amenities in an almost exclusively private sector housing market’ (Moon, 1994, p. 23). To Nicholas, a failure in securing respectable family homes would put to waste the surrounding work of developing areas to the betterment of urban life. This approach in particular brought Nicholas to concentrate on the densities of the redevelopment proposals, ensuring that the standards in living conditions would not compromise the ‘health and well-being of the people who are rehoused in the redevelopment areas’ (Nicholas, 1945, p. 121).

Wythenshawe, Manchester’s largest conurbation, became recipient to the overspill in population during the twentieth century. Soon recognised as being Europe’s largest housing estate, the displacement of different communities burdened a forced unity on the restless workers and unsettled families pieced together within the new homes of their estate. Although built as response to the impoverished slums post-war planning procedures worked to remove, Wythenshawe was without non-basic industries and employment opportunities were absent.

‘The Abercrombie report in 1920 saw Wythenshawe purely as a garden suburb with little or no industry’ (Wythenshawe's History and Heritage, n.d.) which remains a great concern for planners addressing the barriers restricting the development of sustainable communities. Twenty-first century planning, especially in the context of Manchester’s Core Strategy, has pushed a greater emphasis towards the monetary influences involved with developing communities, opposed to the legislative controls that began to regulate the improvement of housing standards in 1945. Keen on delivering “Neighbourhoods of Choice” for prospective residents, employment opportunities are advertised to be in no shortage with Manchester Airport proving dominant in that sector alongside Wythenshawe Hospital. Still, ‘Despite the employment opportunities available the area is still one of the most deprived in England with pockets showing high levels of economic inactivity’ (Manchester City Council, 2012, p. 81).

A common thought in the interests of both planning parties is the consideration to represent community within the developing neighbourhoods and with this, an investigation into the ways socio- economic classifications impact on housing affordability. In the first instance, Wythenshawe was in place to contribute towards the slum clearances activated in post-war planning and cater to the needs of the overspill. ‘This is not to deny of course that there were some who saw housing inequalities and poverty unescapably linked to underlying economic and class structures’ (Cherry, 1988, p. 104). A municipal housing estate for the working-class, the socio-economic tag has fulfilled its modern interpretations associated with a stagnant economy, low-levels of unemployment, crime and dysfunction.

It is predicted that ‘the number of households in Manchester will increase by 48,000 between 2009 and 2027, to a total of 257,000 households in 2027’ (Manchester City Council, 2012, p. 101) which will go to include the assessment of transport links to Manchester City Centre and the provision of social amenities in partnership with these developments. However, it is often the case that these provisions are distanced from the denser council estates as the working-class, through decentralisation away from the urban core, have been moved on to the peripheral towns of the city. From this, town planning has become more responsive to the social changes risen within the processes of improving the strength of the Regional economy. The financial impetus, now driving City Councils and planners to focus on the growth of its central core and less towards the surrounding conurbations, have left communities self-dependant on their own strategies for affecting change; often damning the relationship between Planning Authorities and the civilians they govern. In contrast, Nicholas consistently invested in the thoughts of the citizens of Manchester, demonstrating a genuine care in writing, hoping that they ‘may be satisfied with the result, and that they will find it helpful in formulating the official Plan that is to guide our post-war reconstruction’ (Nicholas, 1945, p. vi).

In summary, the issues confronting planners during the century of British history, moments of which have influenced the proposals outlined in these Plans, have remained relatively consistent despite episodes of internal conflicts, international warfare and financial instability. The effects upon industry and housing in Britain’s North West have meant that planning has had to develop its approach before prioritising the people their policies would foremost affect.

In 1945, the conclusion of the Second World War left whole communities flattened, warehouses and factories dismembered and families fractured from the death of their veterans who never returned home. In addition to this, housing standards left homes withstanding the warfare unfit for habitation because of their structural instability and inadequate sanitary provisions. Planning has therefore self- assessed its approach to these issues in the notion of repairing the city on a civilian scale. Planning Committees came to understand that repairing the city’s civil structure would allow them to institute the change they believed would best respond to Manchester’s industrial heritage.

Planning objectives shared by Manchester City Council in 2012 showed a growing interest towards concerns their industry and housing proposals would feature as contributors to the city’s economy. Therefore, the pre-requisites issued by Planning Authorities was how developments would foremost add to the city’s economy, unlike the Planning Committee of 1945, who would prioritise the needs of the people as Manchester recovered from a national involvement in global warfare.


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Planning for Cities - Then and Now
The University of Liverpool
Urban Regeneration and Planning
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Town, Planning, Town and Country Planning, Urban Regeneration, Undergraduate, Manchester, 1945, 2012
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Christian Cardiss (Author), 2016, Planning for Cities - Then and Now, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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