Stevenage: A Sociological Study of a New Town: Volume 18 (International Library of Sociology)

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More judgementally perhaps, they are associated with a monotonous townscape, with attempts to give them identity through design held only to lead to artificial individuality that does not do justice to the rich complexity of modern life.

  1. Past events.
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The authors are convinced that the town centre should be a showpiece. In social and architectural terms, the centre should e the culmination of the hole to s desig a d the ost e o a le pa t of the to. What appears in the text is an exemplar of emerging megastructuralism, even though that word had not yet been coined. Beneath this came the parking and servicing level, bringing parking within the structure rather than being scattered around it as with American shopping malls p. The lower deck would also offer access to public transport, although a present day view of the related illustrations pp.

Perhaps more than at any other juncture in the report, the writers lapse into an excited futuristic babble replete with references to o ple e ha is s , ge e ato s a d g ids , et o ks a d dist i uto s. Futu isti ideas see i gl dese ed a matching vocabulary. After the pyrotechnics of the previous sections, succeeding chapters on industry pp.

Article excerpt

The chapter on industry justifies the location of three peripheral industrial estates in terms of local geography along with smaller sites closer to the main highways; the community services chapter perfunctorily fits the gamut of educational institutions, medical and welfare services, churches, meeting places and libraries into the mix.

At this point, there is a possible inconsistency. The emphasis in provision of community services is on locality. Clinics, welfare services, licensed premises, places of worship and the rest will be supplied at suitably accessible points within the town rather than simply in the centre. Primary schools would be situated so that children would not have to walk more than a quarter-of-a-mile from their homes.

As Houghton-E a s e a ks, e ha e, so e hat su eptitiousl , go e at least half a to i gi g a k the eigh ou hood. The hapte o e eatio and ope spa e pp. Indeed it opens with an image that has often been reproduced in other sources — an illustration of a young couple reclining on a gentle grassy knoll and gazing across the playing yields and lake towards the accide ted sk li e of Hook s Central Area in the middle-distance figure The appeal of linearity had always been that the built areas are close to open space, but the open space that they see is not simply a green girdle intended to restrain the growth of the town.

Rather it is living space, intended to provide room fo lo al o u it use a d to justif a se se of a Cit i a Pa k. The footpath networks would provide strips of space that could be landscaped and provide a foil to the closely knit housing. Those that wanted them would also have the opportunity to work allotments. Communications pp. Demand for car ownership and sources of trip generation are discussed, along with statistical treatments of demand and flow for the different levels in the road hierarchy from the national roads down to the pedestrian ways.

A heliport, another ubiquitous element of futuristic urbanism, would be located south-east of the town. After another nuts-and-bolts chapter pp. Always likely to have been a major area of contention if the scheme had been approved for construction, the analysis examines the likely costs and returns pp. These are primarily calculated with regard to housing, bearing in mind the different forms of housing planned and the levels of subvention likely to be forthcoming from the state.

By contrast, no detailed analyses were prepared for the industrial areas in light of the complexities involved. From the partial analysis completed, the authors reached the desired conclusion, namely, that the models suggest that despite its very different urban form, Hook New Town would not have been radically different to other New Towns in terms of cost and therefore would have presumably been acceptable. The projection was that it would begin to pay its way by the end of year 15, the final point in the three-stage schedule of development provided by the final chapter on programming pp.

Impressively, the text is followed by nearly 70 pages of technical Appendices covering population, employment, housing needs, commerce and manufacturing, transport and development — in itself, a remarkable degree of supporting information given the status of the report. A concluding bibliography pp. Conclusion The Planning of a New Town, as emphasised previously, was already history by the time of its publication.

It represents the first findings of a development group who were never forced to temper their enthusiasms by having to explain their ideas to sceptical audiences in draughty village halls. The Master Plan was never tweaked by cost-conscious Committees nor adjusted to accommodate vested interests. No buildings were ever constructed that tested the ability of the local construction industry to work with modern methods of building and nothing is available to see whether the LCC would have been any better at creating a megastructural town centre than was Cumbernauld Development Corporation.

Nevertheless, those most closely identified with the design for Hook New Town would have blanched at the suggestion that their scheme was utopian. As Oliver Cox recalled: The ollapse of the Hook p oje t as ha dl a ti ipated… [We] had absolute confidence i the LCC s autho it a d sta di g i the pla i g a d housi g o ld to get the p oje t th ough. It may, as indicated, have contained exhortatory statements or even as elements of critical commentary on developments taking place elsewhere, but it was only latterly produced in circumstances where the authors do not have to bear the burden of actually having to shape real-world urban environments.

Thus conceived, the Hook study provided a baseline of critical commentary that resonated with those who would be employed to design the new wave of New Towns that would be designated in Britain in the s. Moreover, although it would be specious to suggest direct links, there was much in the thinking about Hook — as related to density, walking-scale, linearity, accommodating the car and urbanity — that predates the design principles shortly to emerge in the Master Plans for the Mark II New Towns.

The Central Lancashire New Town embraced linearity in the shape of a triple-spine approach, with a central public transport route and parallel high- speed motorways.

Full text of "The Genesis Of Modern British Town Planning"

Intimately involved in the latter, Sir Andrew Derbyshire recalled: These thi gs i o atio s ha e a oots, ut the Hook stud as e tai l a sou e that we knew about and read at the time. Whe the Pe s e fo Ha pshi e as e ised i , the e t fo Hook reiterated the state e t a out the to s pe a e t — if unseen — i po ta e i the architectural history of the late twentieth century, but only e ause it as the site of the Lo do Cou t Cou il s a o ti e Ne To.

Moreover, while there is still recognition of Hook in the biographies of those associated with the study, in accounts of the historical development of the British New Towns, and more generally in the international diffusion of planning during the s and s, few contemporary sources capture or even give much credence to the enthusiasms that this project once aroused. In many ways, this is scarcely unexpected. Modernist urbanism has suffered so many vicissitudes since the early s that it is hard to recognise the transformatory possibilities that were once associated with megastructures and urban motorways.

The overspill arrangements that were once regarded as de rigueur parts of the management of metropolitan housing lists have long since been rejected by the cities that were supposed to benefit from them. The much vaunted and internationally admired British New Towns programme, with its publicly funded Development Corporations, did not survive the Thatcher era. The domestic climate of ideas surrounding urban development has steadily changed, particularly given moves towards injecting greater investment into urban development through private-public partnerships.

The changing intellectual and political climate has now made the researches carried out for Hook New Town and presented in The Planning of a New Town seem like just a othe e a ple of este da s to o o. Yet even if its credibility as a vision of possible development has long faded, there is still reason to examine the insights that it offers.

In professional terms, it evokes the spirit of a period in which interdisciplinarity could flourish in the design professions, coupling together the planner s g asp of st u tu e a d la out ith the a hite t s isual i agi atio. The Hook study did not simply present a hypothetical recipe for programmed action. Rather, its compelling images, ably rendered in pen-and-crayon, communicate the supe io it of o p ehe si e pla i g o e pie e eal g o th , even though one knows that here, as so often elsewhere, the vision was not followed through to completion.

Moreover, it bears testimony to the ethos of a period when it was felt, however simplistically or naively, that bringing about change through design was not only desirable but essential. At a time when there is little architectural intervention in the built environment other to create signature buildings and when publicly-funded housing programmes are almost non-existent, the contents of The Planning of a New Town provide food for thought about how far the pendulum has swung.

Bibliography Abercrombie, P. Greater London Plan, London: HMSO, Banham, R. Megastructure: urban futures of the recent past. London: Thames and Hudson, Broady, M. Planning for People: essays on the social context of planning. London: National Council of Social Service, Bullen, M. Chamberlin, P. The li i g su u : a spe ial issue , Architecture and Building, 33 : Creese, W. The Search for Environment: the Garden City before and after. Cullingworth, J.

Environmental Planning , vol. Cumbernauld Technical Brochure. I Urban Spaces and Structures, edited by L. Martin and L. March, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, Ervin, S. The structure and function of diagrams in environmental design: a computational inquiry. Esher, L. A Broken Wave: the rebuilding of England, London: Allen Lane, Garside, P. I Metropolis, , edited by A. Sutcliffe, London: Mansell, Gibbon, G. History of the London County Council, London: Macmillan, Golany, G.

New-Town Planning: principles and practice. New York: John Wiley, The Experience of Modernism: modern architects and the future city, , London: E. Spon, The making of a megastructure: architectural modernism, town planning and Cu e auld s e t al a ea, , Planning Perspectives, 21 : The Practice of Modernism: modern architects and urban transformation, London, Routledge, Mode it a d utopia. Hubbard, T. Hall and J. Short, London: Sage, In search of new syntheses: megastructures, architectural modernism and notions of u a t a sfo atio. In Shapers of Urban Form: explorations in morphological agency, edited by M.

Conzen and P. Larkham, London: Routledge, Outrage and righteous indignation: ideology and the imagery of su u ia.

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In The Behavioural Environment: essays in reflection, application and re-evaluation, edited by F. Boal and D. Livingstone, Hall, P. London , second edition. London: Faber and Faber, Hebbert, M. London: more by fortune than design. Chichester: John Wiley, Tewdwr-Jones, N. Phelps and R. He aud, B. The New Towns and London's housing problem. Urban Studies 3, no. Houghton-Evans, W. Planning Cities: legacy and portent. London: Lawrence and Wishart, Ingersoll, P. Seminar on the planning of the project for Hook New Town.

Architectural Association Journal 77, no. Johnson, J. Cu e auld e isited. Architects' Journal no. Joshi, H. The changing population of Britain. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, Journal of Urban History 40, no. London: LCC, Merlin, P. The New Town Movement in Europe. Ministry of Transport. Traffic in Towns: a study of the long-term problems of traffic in urban areas the Buchanan Report. Nai , I. The LCC's e to [Hook]. Architectural Review, , no. Parsons, K. Parsons and D. Schuyler, , Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, Pass, D.

Pevsner, N. Harmondsworth: Penguin, Ravetz, A. Remaking Cities: contradictions of the recent urban environment. London: Croom Helm, Ritter, P. Planning for Man and Motor. Oxford: Pergamon, Rosenau, H. The Ideal City: its architectural evolution in Europe. London: Methuen, Towards a Social Architecture: the role of school building in post war England. Schaffer, F. The New Town Story. London: MacGibbon and Kee, Ward, S. Planning and Urban Change, second edition. London: Sage Publications, Wilson, H. Young, K. Metropolitan London: politics and urban change, London: Edward Arnold, Notes 1 Pevsner and Lloyd, Hampshire, It should be noted that subsequent editions continually changed the prefatory materials that accompany the report.

The page numbers referred to in these Notes relate to the original edition published in See Banham, Megastructure, 7. Fo a e p essio of the Cou t s ha a te isti attitudes towards the wider conurbation, see Gibbon and Bell, History of the London County Council, Over time, too, a further criterion gradually emerged: namely, that the selected location should also be able to absorb a large new settlement without seriously disrupting the existing urban hierarchy.

Ite Cou il Mi utes, No e e. House of Lo ds, 29 June Hansard , cc Raffloer, handwritten notes. Acronyms in the original have been spelled out in full. Fo o e o Nai , see Gold a d Gold, Out age a d ighteous i dig atio. Thomson to G. Wheatley, 21 October Butler, to Macmillan, 5 April Jodrell, E. Toole to local residents of the Hook area. Manchester Guardian, 4 November 4.

The scheme used the Boston Manor area as a basis for a typically swingeing but hypothetical piece of clearance and renewal. Information from interview between the author and Oliver Cox, 2 November ; for more on the Boston Manor project, see Chamberlin et al, The li i g su u. Craig; Senior Staff: O. Cox and C. L Shankland; Design Team, N. Allen, G. Ashworth, M. Ellison, I. Foster, D. Hardy, G. Lacey, E. Lenderyou, H. By artificial cities, Christopher Alexander is talking about cities and towns that have been deliberately created by designers and planners.

The town still regulates the zoning of industrial and residential premises, has a healthy stock of social housing, has retained its network of green infrastructure through the neighbourhood units and the multitude of cycle networks, footpaths and transport routes emphasise the ease of movement afforded to the residents in Stevenage. These characteristics have been the spinal narrative of this chapter and, as discussed, could all be updated and further integrated to restore the innovative architecture and design identified with the inception of the New Towns and to enhance the vitality of Stevenage.

With this in mind, the essential ingredients that are missing can be identified. One of the main requirements involves the updating of governance of the public spaces within New Towns to modern capabilities, to ensure a future consistent maintenance and organic growth of the new towns centre.

Another assessed feature would be to increase the capability of flow in and out of the town centre by improving infrastructural networks to accommodate a growing population and accommodate potential greater footfall to the town. Finally, this should all come under the umbrella of design for the challenges in the modern and future day.

A possible suggestion for the ability of New Towns to govern their own public space could be the inclusion of selfsufficient architecture. The inability to facilitate long term stewardship payments is the most common problem plaguing the New Towns, a contemporary and fundamental way of generating income for local governance is through sustainable energy output.

Using the models discussed earlier in Germany and Scandinavia but also looking at organisations such as Thameswey Ltd in Woking and its sister company in Milton Keynes , there are multiple precedents for cross-party collaboration being utilised to help generate profit for a public body. The suggestions throughout this paper are rooted in the sense of increasing the liveability of a place.

This a crucial aspect of sustainability in small towns Knox and Mayer, The liveability or the ease at which one navigates the space is essentially down to its sense of place. The identity within each of the neighbourhood districts can be perceived as strong, as discussed. The possible negative impact this has on the town centre has yet to be explored and will be investigated in the following chapters.

To implement the proposals stated above, the existing urban fabric of Stevenage needs to be tested to validate the areas of liveability. The only way to do this is through a study of the public utilising the space. All our work as designers, policy-makers and developers must be done with people in mind. Hester, The predominant historical analysis of New Towns has been written by academic experts, proclaiming the legacy of living within them. To remedy this, a more narrative lead approach needs to be employed Sanderson, into the views, aspirations and values of the exiting community.

An investigation into rooting the community within the settlement is required to study whether there is an opportunity for increasing the livelihood of the people within the town. The next chapters will look at an objective first-person holistic approach to analysing the potential of regeneration within the New Town by considering first person perspectives of the people that live work and play within its boundaries. Using a study utilised by Jan Gehl in Life Between Buildings : Using Public Space I have analysed the urban fabric of Stevenage through observing the nature of interaction happening within the public spaces.

The study categorises three activity levels; necessary, optional and social activitiesm, in theory, the more social activities occurring within a space the better the public realm suits its users. The symbolic value held within an object is intrinsic with the identify a certain area of the public realm, a design characteristic I argue is vital to the regeneration of the New Town.

Thirdly, I use Jane Jacobs theory on diversity and land use to ascertain existing identifiable areas within the town centre that work, for instance where people go to shop, where they spend time in the evenings, where they go to participate in leisure activities and so on. All of these studies highlighted the voids within the urban grid emphasising the spaces which are lacking in life and activity, areas which need to attain an identity in order to facilitate a healthy public environment. The following section will highlight potential approaches and methods to analysing existing communities in order to regenerate them holistically.

To fully investigate how to implement new urban design characteristics successfully we need to understand how to identify the spaces devoid of community life within the urban realm. The pioneering residents relocated to Stevenage to provide themselves and their families with this virtue Willmott, As mentioned herein, the New Towns were established with a set of principles in mind.

The aspiration to live in Stevenage after the post-war period was enough for a large majority of the pioneers to voluntarily move there, the lifestyle of the new town utopia and the jobs promised within it were enough to draw people to move in before most of the town was even constructed. However, the effect of essentially building Stevenage in half a century forced a previously unaffiliated group of strangers to form social networks of their own.

The abundance in variety of activities available were discussed previously and in much more depth in the last chapter, as were the reasons for their decline. This is not to say that in modern day Stevenage there is a dearth of activity across the town centre, but there are opportunities to strengthen certain nodes and places within the district. Opposite, Figure 11 illustrates an observation study of Stevenage town centre during the busy Christmas shopping period.

It indicates two major centres for social activity and some spaces within the urban realm where the public optionally favour non-social activities such as people watching and where to eat or drink or wait. This adopted study Gehl, indicates the voids within the public realm that are. One of the predominant reasons for the bare minimum of activity occurring in this space is down to the poor quality of the public realm, it only retains levels of necessary activity as opposed to none at all down to the promenade being the gateway to the town centre via the railway station.

This is where a large chunk of the employed population filter into and out of the town for work, shopping or other activities. One of the initial design characteristics of the New Town not discussed in the first chapter is the zoning of residential and industrial areas. Although the two designated industrial areas within the town are full of large factories, small industries and offices there is a severe lack of light industry or white-collar office spaces within the curtilage of the town centre Figure The infrastructure to support the location of these businesses outside of the centre are good as there are multiple roads, cycleways and footpaths that link the industrial areas to the neighbourhood units within the town.

I feel there does need to be a rethink in the lack of diversity within the town centre to boost its sustenance. I am not simply suggesting that inserting more premises for businesses will help rejuvenate the area, but a greater variety in function would help increase the pressure of interactions within the public realm and therefore boost the liveability of the centre.

We can achieve this through investigating where people go out at night, where they work, where they eat, where they meet friends and why these places are known for these functions. Kevin Lynch discussed three branches of theory to explain the city as a spatial phenomenon and how each of these need to be intrinsically linked to define and support each other, in order to create and understand the form of a city. He also discusses a set of values that are the primary instruments and ambitions of good city form.

We should be providing spaces within our towns and cities with desired. To ascertain the associated spaces the public value within the centre of Stevenage I conducted a short study involving sketch mapping Figure This map indicates a clear barrier and an obvious inclusion of the automobile requirements within the original masterplan.

Most interviewees, when prompted, were able to identify much of the pedestrianised areas within the town centre and the main public buildings that were situated within the ring road. To permeate the barrier from the adjoining neighbourhoods is simple if you arrive by bus, car, foot or cycle down to the inclusion of elevated walkways or underpasses and the large amount of car parking available in the town. There is however, a lack of activity that is outward looking from all directions emanating from the main centre, as illustrated by Figure The absence of social activity can be attributed to the lack of diversity within the boundary spaces, the inessential reasons to visit the spaces or many more reasons to do with safety, access or the quality of the space itself.

There was a clear intention to place the pedestrian first when designing the town centre as over half of the external space is free from vehicular access. Therefore, much of the existing town centre can be reached on foot by any pedestrian that has permeated the ring road. The dispersal of people here is minimal, as all the entrances to shops, offices and food and drink establishments face the street.

This makes it is easy to navigate and move yourself across the centre due to the traffic free zoning and the clear frontages. However, the design of the urban realm clearly has problems with concentrating people across various pockets of space within the centre of Stevenage. Assembling people and function should not be the answer to all problems associated with the public realm and should not be attempted in all circumstances due to the original intention of place-making.

Every town and city must have a clear spatial pattern, a series of positive and negative spaces, solid and voids to help navigate and to ensure the urban grid is legible. The clustering of similar functions within the town was a clear design characteristic in the New Towns masterplan, enabling each individual area to have its own attributable function and its own identity. This singular function designation is argued to be a detriment to spatial performance within towns and cities. A lively city scene is lively largely by virtue of its enormous collection of small elements.

We do need diversity in all aspects of our daily lives to keep things interesting including our choices within the public realm, however the scale of a town can provide areas with singular functionality and still work as part of the bigger townscape. The centre:mk in Milton Keynes is a purpose built indoor shopping centre located across a large expanse of the central urban grid. It contains a multitude of shops and food and drink establishments alone. The centre opened in and has retained a high level of activity since its inception.

It is perceived to have a singular function due to its designation as a shopping centre, but the variety of smaller elements that make up this space are vital to its continual function. These in turn contribute to the level of activities dispersed across the shopping centre Figure The insertion of the large shopping centre also benefits in design from its contextual setting across the grid which allows permeation through it at all intersections. The social activities available within the centre:mk are situated within the indoor plazas, they range from distinct areas for food courts to multi-functional indoor squares for performance, markets or advertisement to occur.

These spaces tend to be placed at intersections of the urban grid to attract the greatest footfall of people. I am not proposing Stevenage should follow suit and build a mile-long indoor shopping centre, this is just an example where an attempt at place making by designating a singular function for a specific area allows a part of the urban fabric to function appropriately and healthily. This quote from Francis Tibbalds is as prevalent now as it was 25 years ago, as the analysis of the town centre through observation has identified some clear voids within the public realm that need addressing.

By using Milton Keynes — perceived by policymakers to be a more successful New Town - as a comparison to Stevenage, we can understand how to implement architectural interventions that complement the more valued aspects of the urban realm. The openness of the centre:mk is a valid example that was inherently designed alongside the key New Town principles, the porosity of its form allows movement through it, the single function is zoned accordingly, and it is pedestrian friendly. On the contrary, the arts and leisure centre in Stevenage Figure 15 denies an adequate level of activity even after it affords a minor level of permeability.

The fact that it is a civic building is completely ambiguous if you ignore the two large, grey signs proclaiming it to be an arts and leisure centre. The porosity afforded takes you through a dark tunnel without the ability to view any of the activity occurring within the facility. This destroys the potential sensory experience a user should have when making their way through a cultural or leisure centre. The inclusion of human form and sensory experience will improve the livelihood of a place and enhance the perceived identity of the urban realm within the New Town.

A parameter required for building a good village, town or city is the identity it is bestowing upon its residents, workers and visitors. The coherence of place-making is projected outwards through how its portrayed by its users. Another word for this is imageability. Overlaying the field study information on typology, activity mapping and symbolic value of the residents it is easy to discern the voids of activity within the public realm Figure Void analysis shows the areas lacking with any meaningful sense of activity, the negative areas where the lack of people is apparent, or where there is a lack of identity associated with individual areas of the urban grid, these are illustrated by the white spaces opposite.

These places need an injection of activity to contribute to the urban realm and increase the liveability of the town and the attributed identity of the district. Not only that, but these proposed spaces need to harness a certain capital to address some of the challenges associated with constructing a building in the modern day and the costs that come with this. To propose a legitimate intervention within the urban fabric of a New Town is possible when you undertake an analysis of the existing emotional connection and identity associated with the place.

In the opening chapter it was suggested that an adaptation to the original design ideologies was a key driver in initiating regeneration in new town developments. Acknowledging this as a potential avenue for the overall regeneration of the town allows for a similar level of adaptability to be implemented within the public realm. Most of this essay has suggested that the approach to redeveloping New Towns should lie within the creation of positive, well designed public space.

As policy-makers and designers we should be providing spaces within the urban realm to give the intended users some degree of control and choice over how they interact with their environment. Allowance for adaptability within architecture has been a vital reason why many cities are lively - most city buildings other than houses are being used in ways for which they were not originally designed.

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Designing in the potential for user interaction within. The identity and structure of a place are the aspects of form which allow us to recognise a pattern of space. There is a line to be drawn however as place-making is a cornerstone ideal behind creating and sustaining a successful community.

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To facilitate the proposed new ideals in the first chapter, the in-between spaces should be identified by some of the design characteristics and activities illustrated in this essay beforehand and should provide an identity to these spaces in terms of programme or activity. The activation of these spaces is vital to improve the livelihood of the centre, and the resistance to adaptability by many of the buildings and spaces within the town centre of Stevenage, have together resulted in the creation of out of town retail and leisure parks dispersing activity away from the proposed heart of the town.

The inclusion of large place making districts within the town centre similar to centre:mk or the theatre district in Milton Keynes can help foster an associated identity within the larger New Towns. The urban spaces devoid of these elements within Stevenage have been identified within this chapter via observation studies and a more narrative approach to urban form than seen in other attempts to analyse town or city structure. The regeneration of a large area of a town such as a district must consider various valued areas within the boundary, and the only way to investigate this is through thoroughly studying an area to understand how the public utilise the existing space.

This chapter has provided me with understanding of how to analyse the space within a district cohesively and with the users of public realm at the forefront of the investigation. The methods illustrated herein acknowledged the need for another proposed design characteristics in line with the ideologies explained within the first chapter. Alongside long-term stewardship of the public realm and selfsufficient architectural interventions, adaptable public space and environments should be implemented in order to promote place-making within existing and future communities.

This essay has argued that the investment required to initiate the stewardship can be in the form of land trusts communal or private sector led like the MK Parks Trust. Finally, it could come in the form of industrial societies, a firm conducting themselves as a private sector business, industry or trade or as a cooperative for the benefit of the community such as Letchworth Garden City Heritage Trust. I believe it is in the best interest to increase the sustainable or environmental capital of the New Towns to fund the long term-stewardship, thereby introducing an enhanced capital and identity to an area within the new towns that has declined over the years.