ME: in Times Lit Supp

Urban renewal in the 1960s

published febuary 26 2021
In responding to Gillian Tindall’s comments about the “wrecking” of the urban landscape in the 1960s in her review of Frostquake, Jim Humberstone makes some astonishing claims in defence of his erstwhile job in Local Authority Architecture and Planning (Letters, February 19). He talks of “new blocks of flats” which provided “a civilized environment for … folk living in … slum conditions”. Leaving aside his patronizing language, much of the property that was cleared was perfectly good and needed only renovation. Instead, communities were destroyed and replaced by developments that “arose from often ignoble motives and shaky logic” (Patrick Dunleavy, Architects Journal, June 23, 2017). It wasn’t just “slum” clearance that wrecked the urban landscape; it was also the wholesale destruction of town centres. My own hometown, Uxbridge, was described in Pears’ Cyclopaedia in the 1950s as a “market town”, but it didn’t survive the onslaught of the planners. The town had many old industries, including a steam laundry, a maltings, a corn chandler, coaching inns and Harman’s Brewery. By the time the redevelopment had finished, they had all gone, and in their place was a vast, featureless, wind-scoured shopping plaza with, at its centre, a small tower painted to look old, the final irony.

F. W. Nunneley
Beckley, East Sussex