Town Planning Review

Gordon Stephenson and the ‘galaxy of talent’: planning for post-war reconstruction in Britain 1942-1947

Town Planning Review (2012), 83, (3), 279–296.

Abstract

This paper examines the work of Gordon Stephenson between January 1942 and December 1947 when he worked for the British central planning ministry. Using public and his own personal archives, it shows how, as part of a small, very talented team, he played a key role in developing a new expertise of planning to address the great challenges of the post-war years. The paper discusses his work formulating new planning standards for residential and commercial densities, daylighting and community development. He also played a significant role in Patrick Abercrombie's Greater London Plan team and led the small group that subsequently planned what became the first New Town at Stevenage. The paper shows that, at this time, Stephenson saw the planner as a rational, technical expert rather than as a consciously political actor.

Access Token
£25.00
READ THIS ARTICLE
If you have private access to this content, please log in with your username and password here

ABERCROMBIE, P. (1945), Greater London Plan 1944, London, HMSO. Greater London Plan 1944 Google Scholar

BALCHIN, J. (1980), First New Town: An Autobiography of the Stevenage Development Corporation 1946-1980, Stevenage, SDC. First New Town: An Autobiography of the Stevenage Development Corporation 1946-1980 Google Scholar

BOOTH, P. (2003), Planning by Consent: The Origins and Nature of British Development Control, London, Routledge. Planning by Consent: The Origins and Nature of British Development Control Google Scholar

BUCHANAN, C. D. (1968), ‘… if the day be clear’, Journal of the Town Planning Institute, 54, 51-5. ‘… if the day be clear’ Journal of the Town Planning Institute 54 51 5 Google Scholar

CHERRY, G. E. and PENNY, L. (1986), Holford: A Study in Architecture, Planning and Civic Design, London, Mansell. Holford: A Study in Architecture, Planning and Civic Design Google Scholar

CROW, S. (1996), ‘Development control: the child that grew up in the cold’, Planning Perspectives, 11, 399-411. ‘Development control: the child that grew up in the cold’ Planning Perspectives 11 399 411 Google Scholar

CULLINGWORTH, J. B. (1975), Environmental Planning 1939-1969, I, Reconstruction and Land Use Planning 1939-1947, London, HMSO. Environmental Planning 1939-1969, I, Reconstruction and Land Use Planning 1939-1947 Google Scholar

CULLINGWORTH, J. B. (1979), Environmental Planning 1939-1969, III, New Towns Policy, London, HMSO. Environmental Planning 1939-1969, III, New Towns Policy Google Scholar

DAVIES, H. W. E. (1999), ‘The planning system and the development plan’, in Cullingworth, J. B. (ed.), British Planning: 50 Years of Urban and Regional Policy, London, Athlone, pp. 45-61. British Planning: 50 Years of Urban and Regional Policy 45 61 Google Scholar

FORSHAW, J. H. and ABERCROMBIE, P. (1943), County of London Plan, London, Macmillan. County of London Plan Google Scholar

FORSTER, E. M. ([1946] 1965), ‘The challenge of our time’, in Forster, E. M., Two Cheers for Democracy, Harmondsworth, Penguin, pp. 64-9. Two Cheers for Democracy 64 9 Google Scholar

HOLDEN, C. H. and HOLFORD, W. G. (1947), Reconstruction in the City of London: Final Report, London, City Corporation. Reconstruction in the City of London: Final Report Google Scholar

MARRIOTT, O. (1969), The Property Boom, London, Pan. The Property Boom Google Scholar

MCINTYRE, I. (2008), ‘Reith, John Charles Walsham, first Baron Reith (1889-1971)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/31596 (accessed 6 December 2010). www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/31596 Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Google Scholar

MH (MINISTRY OF HEALTH) (1944a), Design of Dwellings - Report of the Design of Dwellings Sub-Committee Appointed by the Minister of Health and Report of the Study Group of the Ministry of Town and Country Planning on Site Planning and Layout in Relation to Housing, London, HMSO. Google Scholar

MH (MINISTRY OF HEALTH) (1944b), Housing Manual, London, HMSO. Google Scholar

MHLG (MINISTRY OF HOUSING AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT) (1952), The Density of Residential Areas, London, HMSO. Google Scholar

MLGP (MINISTRY OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND PLANNING) (1951), Town and Country Planning 1943-1951: Progress Report by the Minister of Local Government and Planning on the Work of the Ministry of Town and Country Planning (Cmd. 8204), London, HMSO. Google Scholar

MTCP (MINISTRY OF TOWN AND COUNTRY PLANNING) (1946), Stevenage - New Town. Report on Planning and Development Proposals 31st July 1946, London, Technical Department, MTCP. Google Scholar

MTCP (MINISTRY OF TOWN AND COUNTRY PLANNING) (1947), Advisory Handbook on the Redevelopment of Central Areas, London, HMSO. Google Scholar

OSBORN, F. J. AND WHITTICK, A. (1969), The New Towns: The Answer to Megalopolis, London, Leonard Hill. The New Towns: The Answer to Megalopolis Google Scholar

PENDLEBURY, J. (2009), ‘The urbanism of Thomas Sharp’, Planning Perspectives, 24, 3-27. ‘The urbanism of Thomas Sharp’ Planning Perspectives 24 3 27 Google Scholar

RAMSDEN, J. (2006), ‘Morrison, William Shepherd, first Viscount Dunrossil (1893-1961)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/35123 (accessed 6 December 2010). www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/35123 Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Google Scholar

SDC (STEVENAGE DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION) (1949), Stevenage New Town - Technical Report, Stevenage, SDC, July. Google Scholar

STEPHENSON, F. and STEPHENSON, G. (1942), Community Centres: A Survey, for a Joint Committee of the National Council of Social Service, the Royal Institute of British Architects and the Housing Centre, London, Percy Lund, Humphries and Co. Community Centres: A Survey, for a Joint Committee of the National Council of Social Service, the Royal Institute of British Architects and the Housing Centre Google Scholar

STEPHENSON, G. (1942), ‘New Town’, Pictorial Education Quarterly, October. ‘New Town’ Pictorial Education Quarterly Google Scholar

STEPHENSON, G. (1992), On a Human Scale: A Life in City Design (ed. C. DeMarco), South Fremantle, Fremantle Arts Centre Press. On a Human Scale: A Life in City Design Google Scholar

STEPHENSON, G. and HEPBURN, J. A. (1955), Plan for the Metropolitan Region, Perth and Fremantle, Perth, Western Australia, Government Printing Office. Plan for the Metropolitan Region, Perth and Fremantle Google Scholar

THEAKSTON, K. (2007), ‘Sharp, Evelyn Adelaide, Baroness Sharp (1903-1985)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/31672 (accessed 6 December 2010). www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/31672 Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Google Scholar

THOMPSON, F. L. (1944), Merseyside Plan 1944, London, HMSO. Merseyside Plan 1944 Google Scholar

WARD S. V. (1999), ‘Public-private partnerships’, in Cullingworth, J. B. (ed.), British Planning: 50 Years of Urban and Regional Policy, London, Athlone, pp. 232-49. British Planning: 50 Years of Urban and Regional Policy 232 49 Google Scholar

WARD, S. V. (2004), Planning and Urban Change (2nd edn), London, Sage. Planning and Urban Change Google Scholar

WEIGHT, R. (2008), ‘Silkin, Lewis, first Baron Silkin (1889-1972)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/31684 (accessed 6 December 2010). www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/31684 Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Google Scholar

ABERCROMBIE, P. (1945), Greater London Plan 1944, London, HMSO. Greater London Plan 1944 Google Scholar

BALCHIN, J. (1980), First New Town: An Autobiography of the Stevenage Development Corporation 1946-1980, Stevenage, SDC. First New Town: An Autobiography of the Stevenage Development Corporation 1946-1980 Google Scholar

BOOTH, P. (2003), Planning by Consent: The Origins and Nature of British Development Control, London, Routledge. Planning by Consent: The Origins and Nature of British Development Control Google Scholar

BUCHANAN, C. D. (1968), ‘… if the day be clear’, Journal of the Town Planning Institute, 54, 51-5. ‘… if the day be clear’ Journal of the Town Planning Institute 54 51 5 Google Scholar

CHERRY, G. E. and PENNY, L. (1986), Holford: A Study in Architecture, Planning and Civic Design, London, Mansell. Holford: A Study in Architecture, Planning and Civic Design Google Scholar

CROW, S. (1996), ‘Development control: the child that grew up in the cold’, Planning Perspectives, 11, 399-411. ‘Development control: the child that grew up in the cold’ Planning Perspectives 11 399 411 Google Scholar

CULLINGWORTH, J. B. (1975), Environmental Planning 1939-1969, I, Reconstruction and Land Use Planning 1939-1947, London, HMSO. Environmental Planning 1939-1969, I, Reconstruction and Land Use Planning 1939-1947 Google Scholar

CULLINGWORTH, J. B. (1979), Environmental Planning 1939-1969, III, New Towns Policy, London, HMSO. Environmental Planning 1939-1969, III, New Towns Policy Google Scholar

DAVIES, H. W. E. (1999), ‘The planning system and the development plan’, in Cullingworth, J. B. (ed.), British Planning: 50 Years of Urban and Regional Policy, London, Athlone, pp. 45-61. British Planning: 50 Years of Urban and Regional Policy 45 61 Google Scholar

FORSHAW, J. H. and ABERCROMBIE, P. (1943), County of London Plan, London, Macmillan. County of London Plan Google Scholar

FORSTER, E. M. ([1946] 1965), ‘The challenge of our time’, in Forster, E. M., Two Cheers for Democracy, Harmondsworth, Penguin, pp. 64-9. Two Cheers for Democracy 64 9 Google Scholar

HOLDEN, C. H. and HOLFORD, W. G. (1947), Reconstruction in the City of London: Final Report, London, City Corporation. Reconstruction in the City of London: Final Report Google Scholar

MARRIOTT, O. (1969), The Property Boom, London, Pan. The Property Boom Google Scholar

MCINTYRE, I. (2008), ‘Reith, John Charles Walsham, first Baron Reith (1889-1971)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/31596 (accessed 6 December 2010). www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/31596 Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Google Scholar

MH (MINISTRY OF HEALTH) (1944a), Design of Dwellings - Report of the Design of Dwellings Sub-Committee Appointed by the Minister of Health and Report of the Study Group of the Ministry of Town and Country Planning on Site Planning and Layout in Relation to Housing, London, HMSO. Google Scholar

MH (MINISTRY OF HEALTH) (1944b), Housing Manual, London, HMSO. Google Scholar

MHLG (MINISTRY OF HOUSING AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT) (1952), The Density of Residential Areas, London, HMSO. Google Scholar

MLGP (MINISTRY OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND PLANNING) (1951), Town and Country Planning 1943-1951: Progress Report by the Minister of Local Government and Planning on the Work of the Ministry of Town and Country Planning (Cmd. 8204), London, HMSO. Google Scholar

MTCP (MINISTRY OF TOWN AND COUNTRY PLANNING) (1946), Stevenage - New Town. Report on Planning and Development Proposals 31st July 1946, London, Technical Department, MTCP. Google Scholar

MTCP (MINISTRY OF TOWN AND COUNTRY PLANNING) (1947), Advisory Handbook on the Redevelopment of Central Areas, London, HMSO. Google Scholar

OSBORN, F. J. AND WHITTICK, A. (1969), The New Towns: The Answer to Megalopolis, London, Leonard Hill. The New Towns: The Answer to Megalopolis Google Scholar

PENDLEBURY, J. (2009), ‘The urbanism of Thomas Sharp’, Planning Perspectives, 24, 3-27. ‘The urbanism of Thomas Sharp’ Planning Perspectives 24 3 27 Google Scholar

RAMSDEN, J. (2006), ‘Morrison, William Shepherd, first Viscount Dunrossil (1893-1961)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/35123 (accessed 6 December 2010). www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/35123 Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Google Scholar

SDC (STEVENAGE DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION) (1949), Stevenage New Town - Technical Report, Stevenage, SDC, July. Google Scholar

STEPHENSON, F. and STEPHENSON, G. (1942), Community Centres: A Survey, for a Joint Committee of the National Council of Social Service, the Royal Institute of British Architects and the Housing Centre, London, Percy Lund, Humphries and Co. Community Centres: A Survey, for a Joint Committee of the National Council of Social Service, the Royal Institute of British Architects and the Housing Centre Google Scholar

STEPHENSON, G. (1942), ‘New Town’, Pictorial Education Quarterly, October. ‘New Town’ Pictorial Education Quarterly Google Scholar

STEPHENSON, G. (1992), On a Human Scale: A Life in City Design (ed. C. DeMarco), South Fremantle, Fremantle Arts Centre Press. On a Human Scale: A Life in City Design Google Scholar

STEPHENSON, G. and HEPBURN, J. A. (1955), Plan for the Metropolitan Region, Perth and Fremantle, Perth, Western Australia, Government Printing Office. Plan for the Metropolitan Region, Perth and Fremantle Google Scholar

THEAKSTON, K. (2007), ‘Sharp, Evelyn Adelaide, Baroness Sharp (1903-1985)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/31672 (accessed 6 December 2010). www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/31672 Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Google Scholar

THOMPSON, F. L. (1944), Merseyside Plan 1944, London, HMSO. Merseyside Plan 1944 Google Scholar

WARD S. V. (1999), ‘Public-private partnerships’, in Cullingworth, J. B. (ed.), British Planning: 50 Years of Urban and Regional Policy, London, Athlone, pp. 232-49. British Planning: 50 Years of Urban and Regional Policy 232 49 Google Scholar

WARD, S. V. (2004), Planning and Urban Change (2nd edn), London, Sage. Planning and Urban Change Google Scholar

WEIGHT, R. (2008), ‘Silkin, Lewis, first Baron Silkin (1889-1972)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/31684 (accessed 6 December 2010). www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/31684 Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Google Scholar

If you have private access to this content, please log in with your username and password here

Details

Author details

Ward, Stephen