Can the British plan? Sometimes it seems unlikely. Across the world we see grand designs and visionary projects: new airport terminals, nuclear power stations, high-speed railways, and glittering buildings. It all seems an unattainable goal on Britain’s small and crowded island; and yet perhaps this is too pessimistic. For the British have always planned, and much of what they have today is the result of past plans, successfully implemented.
Ranging widely, from London’s squares and the new city of Milton Keynes, to ‘High Speed One’, the motorways, and the secret first electronic computers, Ian Wray’s remarkable book puts successful infrastructure plans under the microscope. Who made these plans and what made them stick? How does this reflect the defining characteristics of British government? And what does that say about the individuals who drew them up and saw them through?
In so doing the book casts refreshing new light on how big decisions have actually been made, revealing the hidden sources of drive and initiative in British society, as seen through the lens of ‘plans past’. And it asks some searching questions about the mechanisms we might need for successful ‘plans future’, in Britain and elsewhere.Includes foreword by the Right Honourable the Lord Heseltine CH.
Table of Contents
Foreword by the Right Honourable the Lord Heseltine CH, Part I: Context, 1. Manoeuvre Well Executed? On Rational Plans and British Plans, Part II: Case Studies, 2. Landlords and Objectors: London’s Roads and Squares, 3. The Making of an English Landscape: Capability Brown and the New Aesthetic, 4. Urban Pastoral: The Building of Birkenhead Park, 5. The Uses of Disorder: Bletchley Park and the World’s First Computer, 6. The Cambridge Paradox: Phenomenal Growth; Planned Restraint, 7. Driving Ambitions: Engineering the British Motorways, 8. The City as Chessboard: Constructing the New City of Milton Keynes, 9. The Dream of Caligula: The Channel Tunnel and Its Rail Link, 10. The Pedaller’s Tale: Pioneering the National Cycle Network, Part III: Explanations and Implications, 11. Common Threads: Drawing Together the Case Studies, 12. Who’s in Charge? The British Government Machine, 13. How Britain Works: Pluralism, Autonomy and Individualism, 14. British Futures, British Plans: Conclusions and Implications
Ian Wray is a Visiting Professor in Geography and Planning and Visiting Fellow in the Heseltine Institute for Public Policy and Practice, University of Liverpool. He was Chief Planner, Northwest Development Agency, 2000–2010. He has written for The Architects’ Journal, Management Today and The Guardian and is currently a trustee of the Town and Country Planning Association and of World Heritage UK, and a member of the general assembly of the Royal Town Planning Institute.
‘A hugely ambitious and equally entertaining treatise that offers considerable insight into the the practice of planning in Britian’
Town Planning Review
‘A rich, lively and interesting foray into the history and culture of planning in Britain… an engaging, diverse overview… always asking what makes British planning unique’
‘An excellent book demonstrating the status of planning in the UK… designed to make the reader reflect on their own interpretations. The case studies are interesting stories in their own right’
Journal of Urban Affairs
‘Ian Wray’s superb historical review of some major British achievements and the way they were planned provides an excellent context for considering how to improve the process…
Academy of Urbanism Journal
‘The stories which Wray tells are fascinating’
Journal of the Institute of Historic Building Conservation
‘Highly readable... I recommend that (Ministers) read Wray’s excellent book to understand that good planning seems to mean giving local institutions and the innovative individuals that serve them the space to put their plans into effect’
Town and Country Planning