Richard Pratt and Peter Larkham
There certainly is a lead to be taken [in sustainability]. That lead should not only be taken in the form of guidance for the planning profession in practice, it should also be taken in the academic institutions where planning professionals are taught. If we do not grasp the nettle now, the repercussions in future years could be disastrous. (Moore, 1995, p. 27)
In the UK, from time to time, planning has been asked to provide the gateway to the New Jerusalem. There has been a continuing Utopian strand of town planning from Ebenezer Howard through to the creation of the postwar planning system (Hardy, 1991). An understanding of this history should have important lessons for current challenges, which include sustainability and what has been suggested as its key urban corollary, the 'compact city'.
Whilst not yet at the same feverish pitch of the discussion of 'ribbon development' during the 1930s, the current language about quality in town and country does share some characteristics with the rhetoric of that time (Ashworth, 1954; Bedarida, 1979; Cherry, 1988; Hague, 1984; Hardy, 1991; Ward, 1994). The 1929 Labour Government had attempted to establish more strategic policies through the setting-up of three committees, namely the Committee of Inquiry into National Parks (under Addison), the Chelmsford Committee on Rural Development and the Marley Committee on Garden Cities and Satellite Towns. The containment of urban England became a major issue of the 1930s. It is further worth recalling that the Council for the Preservation of Rural England had been founded in 1926, and greatly informed these debates as it still does today (as the Council for the Protection of Rural England). Recalling 'a sense of patrician disdain for the bargain basement environmental quality of nascent consumer capitalism', Hague (1984) analysed the social forces that combined to facilitate the passing of the 1932 Town and Country Planning Act. This Act led to Town Planning Schemes covering 3.64 million ha. by 1933, extending to