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Bad Town Planning

22933 Views 88 Replies 29 Participants Last post by  The Champ
So came across Chafford Hundred for the first time in my life, a development of 5,000 new homes in 90s and 00s. Judging from the pictures this looks one of the most souless places I've ever seen - 90s planning at its worst surely:

It makes me want to cry.

Is this the best we can do? Does anyone know anything else about this location or other examples of poor modern town planning I can get upset by.
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This is Bing Map's view of that site. Your picture is taken from a higher-level road, off the left hand edge on this one.

Not sure what all the low-level buildings are - they don't seem to all have access as garages.

IIRC, space planning standards were swept away in the 1980s, and pokey-sized rooms were the result.

The layout gives variety, but only a bit of white rendering on a few frontages gives the buildings any variety, and they are still Lego blocks.

There don't seem to be any trees.

So came across Chafford Hundred for the first time in my life, a development of 5,000 new homes in 90s and 00s. Judging from the pictures this looks one of the most souless places I've ever seen - 90s planning at its worst surely:

It makes me want to cry.

Is this the best we can do? Does anyone know anything else about this location or other examples of poor modern town planning I can get upset by.
I don't know how to specify a URL on a particular Bing map, I'm afraid. All I can do is host a JPG somewhere, and I thought tinypic was okay.

Here's another tinypic from Kent, near Bluewater, which is better design - which you presumably cannot see either!:

It features in BBC FOUR's

Looking on rightmove the rooms are tiny - with lots of the houses having 6/7 or even 8 bedrooms. Why would you want 8 bedrooms?

Could you directly link to the bing maps - I can't access tinypic.
Here's two examples of town planning:

Barnet Council turned this:

into a very formal:

where even the trees look regimented.

And here's a "new town" of Dickens Heath, in south Birmingham, which tries to reduce the impact of cars, and has an italianate town centre, leading down to the canal (which recently flooded many of the new buildings):

Whatever virtues such places have, I hate the look of a single developer on principle.

Each of these blocks near Browley-by-Bow station is apparently being designed by different architects on purpose:

(On Bing Maps, how do you get rid of the big location block with its arrow, showing you the place is that you have searched for?

I end up moving to one side, and searching for something there, which gives a new block there, and then moving back to the original place.)

In terms of an opportunity for crime (which may not be what you were thinking of) probably not in London, at least.

The Met has produced a "Better by Design" (or similar wording) standard, which stops that.

Here's a ****-up of some sort from today's Evening Standard:

'Fort Dagenham' bungalow homes look nothing like artist's impression, say residents

And finally...the dark footpath between houses...why are these still being built!
The Royal Town Planning Institute has just published its first video since 2010.

I could have waited for something better.

You cannot build lots and lots of detached houses - it uses up too much land, and too much energy.

You can build low-rise flats, mansion blocks and terraced two and three storey houses. That is sustainable and popular, I think. And of course, being on this board, you build in a mesh of good public transport, cycleways and footpaths.
Or a model train shed, a motorbike shed and a shed for tools :)

Whatever. It seems some people are keen to prescribe how the rest of us should live. Sure gardens may not be as big as we would like but houses are more expensive than we like. The answer is to build lots and lots of houses, with gardens, that are detached that families can afford not stick people in things they don't want.

I've always been impressed by this arrangement, on City Road in Islington.

The high-density terraced houses presumably have no garden at the back - maybe a 'yard' there.

But at the front, the houses have their individual bits of green, and then a communal space along the whole parade, which is still private, behind a high hedge, and with gates to the pavement.

Children always used to be playing there.

And this is on London's Inner Ring Road, remember.


The suburbs in the USA relied on very cheap oil, and no consideration of energy use (and I don't mean the lawn mowers below).

This is what the marines who fought up the D-Day beaches came back to.

As for our own future low-density, detached surburbs: we cannot build them on any scale. We would be unable to meet the Climate Change Act obligations we have set ourselves.

I think there were national planning guidance changes in the 1970s, which did this.

Curvy cul-de-sacs and so on provided more variety, less speedy traffic and allegedly less burglary.

But it also provided more social isolation.
Some points about the strengths & weaknesses of flats vs detached houses. Good soundproofing in the floors and walls of flats are not a high tech or luxury item, they are merely value engineered out of most real estate developments in recent decades. Flats & houses as a format can't be blamed for this, it's a poor design choice foisted upon us customers.

-Why do people covet detached houses over semis or even terraces. Other than an easy way to wheel your bin from the front of the house to the back what purpose does it serve. If you have a front & back garden then surely the bits to the side are wasted space.

-Why are the curvy street layouts of modern estates with their oddly shaped plots so commonly used. Surely with grid layouts (or similar) they could fit more houses (without sacrificing on home size) and make better use of the space. This means they get more money from the piece of land and visitors don't get lost by the confusing road layout.
Ok then, Pacific theatre.

Someone has commented:
There were a few US Marines in the European front of the Second World War, and mostly in Ireland. The majority of the USMC strength was in the Pacific front of the war.

From what I have read, the issue was more political in a way. After WW1, the public was brainwash in believing the Marines had brought the United States fame worldwide for their actions at the Battle of Belleau Wood.

In truth, the Army has done a lot too during the war and was mostly forgotten. So they decided not to allow the Marines back in the European Front to see actions.
D-Day beaches? I thought they were otherwise engaged in the Pacific theatre?

I think Parker Morris was at the beginning of the 1960s. (I always thought it was two people, like Duckworth Lewis in one-day cricket, but I think it was a Mr Parker Morris.

It must have consolidated what was already the case with most post-war housing, before the bean counters took charge.

One thing I always notice about proposals from that time is the INTERNAL plans of the homes - room sizes and functions and so on. The EXTERNAL shape of the blocks and units were merely a result of that.

Nowadays it is the other way round. It is always an outside view of some stack of rabbit hutches that appears in the papers.
The 1970's planning changes you mentioned, is this the Parker Morris minimum space standards that Thatcher got rid of?

The curvy cul de sac thing never really made sense to me. It is against the interests of developers to waste their land this way, it merely gives them the incentive to cram shoebox homes into their design as a last minute effort to make up for the profits lost due to the design quirks of their master plan. Hence the iconic Chafford Hundred photo that started this thread. If they are so keen on these weird estate layouts then there has to be a reason for it. Either government planning policy is foisting it upon them or this is actually what the customer wants (or it's what estate agents think the customer wants). Anyone got some insider knowledge of this process?

If I remember rightly the curvy cul de sac layout has a name, I think it is something like 'tree route'. Very different to the Radburn principle, which was an effort to reconcile cars & pedestrians. British but more commonly Irish planning doesn't have the same concession to pedestrians, much more car based albeit pissing drivers off with traffic calmed totally non-legible routes= no one really happy.
Beyond just talking of room sizes, I think it was always assumed that there would be a certain level of maintenance and supervision of large council developments.

However, the residents would not have been skilled at constantly lobbying within town halls for their interests, like middle-class suburbs do, and little by little, over years, costs were cut.

By the 1970s, councils were also trying system-built housing that was really designed for Mediterranean climates, not the weather we get. Quality control was often rubbish too. That meant damp was a problem from day one in some cases.
Which might explain the estate agent phrase 'has to be seen to be appreciated'. Plenty of people have turned up to a showing thinking "Christ what a utilitarian Brutalist piece of shite". Step through the front door and they realise "****, the room sizes and natural light is way better in this ex council flat than what you'd get in most new builds".

If I remember rightly in the latter days of mass council flat building (the 70's I guess) in some cases the space standards started to fall below Park Morris. Don't know of any specific examples to prove this point, might not have been London, but it is mentioned somewhere in the 400page 'tower block' non fiction book that is legally available free here

or you could buy it for several hundred pounds. Probably the most in depth book of it's kind and brilliant photos.
Too many individuals with a particular vision or agenda?

Surely not.

Just as a matter of interest, why was it called "Great Western" Road?

Brunel?? :)
And are there building control officers still working for the council, who can intervene? But presumably they are happy.
The students actually make it a fairly expensive place if you're a couple/family. You're competing against 4/5 people each paying £350/month (or their HMO landlord).

Worse still some landlords have mutilated the generous proportions of the flats to subdivide into additional bedrooms. Kitchens that were a sizeable room in their own right are divided into a bedroom and small windowless kitchen. Box rooms are advertised as bedrooms despite being barely bigger than a bed. A lot of these flats were built with two reception rooms, which are turned into long narrow bedrooms.A particularly ghastly example is this.
That is going on all over the country. There is some stupendously-ugly giant buildings just gone up in Birmingham, on this site:
The purpose built student accommodation going up around the city may reduce demand somewhat - although that itself is beginning to look like a mini-bubble.
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