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250 New Towns - The club for people with big plans to build click here for audacity 001 Let's Build!
Let's Build!
Why we need five million
new homes in the next
10 years

James Heartfield

With a foreword by Robert Bruegmann

WelcomePeopleEventsResearchBuy from us directSponsorsContacts

1. Ian Abley, 'Deluded Housing Minister John Healey celebrates the 1909 Planning Act', 10 December 2009, posted here

2. Ian Abley, 'We are witnessing a British built "housing crisis" that Government is powerless to resolve', 23 July 2008, posted here

3. Ian Abley, 'Planning Gain is a loss', 1 January 2010, posted here

Where to build?

James Woudhuysenclick here for Big Potatoes - raising the level of discussion and debate about innovation, in the UK and beyond

Ian AbleyJames StevensTony Pierce

The First meeting of the 250 New Towns Club

After the critical two day conference All Planned Out? at the Building Centre in 2007, some of the attendees wanted a way to better identify and challenge the obstacles to development in Britain. We had identified the 1947 Town and Country Planning Act as the legal moment that the planning system we have today was created. The date was not 1909 as some imagine. (1) It is the national denial of the freedom of anyone with the money to buy land and build on it, innovated in 1947, that controls development in the twenty-first century. Yet the post-war emergency was over 60 years ago. It is necessary to explain why every government since 1947 persists with the denial of freehold development rights.

click here for All Planned Out? - The Worldwide Impact of the British Town and Country Planning System

Why not set Britain's farmers free to sell their land for building? The planning system is no guarantor of environmental quality. Maybe people could do better if planners could be put in their place, as they were between 1909 and 1947, as public administrators and private consultants reliant only on their powers of pursuasion. New Labour talked endlessly and ineffectually about a "Decent Home for All", (2) and the Coalition of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats are scared of "Localism". What has government to lose by returning development rights to land owners?

The 1947 legal innovation is not the continuation of the ineffective 1909 planning Act. It is all too effective as legislation. Now government denies development rights to everyone, reallocating planning approvals to those who fit some kind of changeable plan, and land owners have no legal alternative to the negotiation over "planning gain". (3) This is hopeless.

So we hit upon the idea of the 250 New Towns Club in 2010, as a way to investigate the appetite in Britain for building more freely. The club is an experiment. It is an open invitation to enthusiasts for planning with the intention of expanding and advancing the construction industry, and a rebuttal to all those who see planning as a means to frustrate population growth. The only criteria for club membership is the shared ambition to be building at least 500,000 new homes a year. Where is up to us...


clickInvitation to join the 250 New Towns Club 18.09.2010

clickProgramme 1 18.09.2010

clickJames Stevens Opening Address 18.09.2010

clickJames Stevens Opening Presentation 18.09.2010

clickIan Abley Proposition 18.09.2010

The Ordnance Survey 1:50,000 Landranger maps for Southern England were laid out in the Building Centre and possible New Town locations were simply identified

The Ordnance Survey 1:50,000 Landranger Maps for Southern England were laid out in the Building Centre to mark locations

001 Evenlode, showing England's Green Belt

Andrew BrooksAndrew Brooks

001 Evenlode, Oxfordshire, showing the Ordnance Survey 1:50,000 Landranger Map key, and England's Green Belt

We decided to start the series of 250 New Towns with the projection of Evenlode, Oxfordshire, North West of Blenheim Palace, in Landranger 164. We are grateful to builder Stephen Ibbitson for that idea, which is further explored in the following section. Click on the Red Bullet Point:

click001 Evenlode

As the club progresses you will find an index to the 250 New Town locations here:

click250 New Town Locations

Where might 250 New Towns be located?

Tony Burton of the New Towns Record gave an entertaining and challenging talk (right)

Sealand, by Andrew Brooks

Andrew Brooks is a photographer, a conceptual digital artist and film maker living and working in Manchester. He says '... no matter how much digital application is going on, the atmosphere and feel of a picture is always the most important thing.' Andrew’s creative process often results in capturing hundreds of images to create a complete work.

Andrew talked about the constructed and imagined cities and spaces which are a continuing theme in his work, with an in depth look at his SEALAND image, shown above. He talked about the elements and techniques that went into creating the image, along with some of the ideas and reasons for creating this imagined Sea bound city. He said:

'For years my photography and digital artwork has been playing with imagined ideas of the city and urban spaces, building visions of future landscapes, both idealistic and, at times, apocalyptic. The 250 New Towns Club offers me a chance to think through ideas with people from totally different disciplines about the future of our built environments.'

click here for Andrew Brooks Photography
Andrew Brooks talks with Andrew Scoones

Photographer Andrew Brooks talks with Andrew Scoones of the Building Centre Trust after the SEALAND presentation


The 250 New Towns Club first met on 18.09.10 between 10.30 am and 3.00 pm in the café and exhibition area at the Building Centre, 26 Store Street, London, WC1E 7BT. Check programmes for future venues.

18.09.10, updated after the meeting

Welcome to the Building Centre

We will continue to explore locations on the 1:50,000 OS Landranger Maps at other meetings

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