'The needs of new communities': Social development, the new towns, and the case of Milton Keynes, c. 1962-1987

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Abstract / Description of output

This article contributes to the emerging history of ‘community’ in post-war Britain by considering what was known as ‘social development’ in Britain’s new towns, with particular reference to Milton Keynes between the late 1960s and the early 1980s. The article traces the roots of social development in the activities and ideas of the voluntary sector during the 1920s and 1930s, and notes how they were co-opted by the state during the 1940s and 1950s. The ‘mark 1’ new towns of that period in some cases took steps to promote social development, understood in terms of an active community life and civic engagement, but the practice was particularly promoted in 1967 by a government committee, which called for new towns to be based on clear social plans as well as physical land-use plans. In making this argument, the committee reflected a wider train of thought which had already informed the likes of the Parker Morris report on housing; in essence, they scaled up Parker Morris' approach from the home to the urban level. These ideas were especially influential in Milton Keynes, whose planners took a broad, even philosophical view of their role. The article considers the extent to which social development was as much about individual aspiration and opportunity as communal activity, and also explores the role of the voluntary sector. In so doing, it makes broader observations about the nature of the post-war state as a potential enabler, rather than a universal provider.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberhwae037
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalModern British History
Early online date16 May 2024
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 16 May 2024

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