All of the residents of Stevenage New Town have been provided with an equally good quality of life

“All of the residents of Stevenage New Town have been provided with an equally good quality of life.”

I intend to prove or disprove this statement as objectively as possibly to complete my assignment. To do this I will have to acquire sufficient evidence to achieve an overall understanding of the present circumstances of the town. To do this we went to Stevenage to study for ourselves the town on which our project was based. We developed questionnaires, which we put to the residents, since they have a first hand experience of living in the town and could offer an informed view of the area they lived in.

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We also visited several different locations in order to collect data. These included various residential neighbourhoods, the new town center, the new central leisure complex, the old town centre, and the retail park popularly known as ‘Roaring Meg’, which is along side the industrial zone. In each area we recorded how the land had been used, i.e. what type of shops were found there, low-order goods or high- order goods. We will use this data to assess the success of Stevenage; taking into consideration the aims the New Town planners had initially hoped for (see chapter 1). We will use such aspects as the standard of housing, shopping, job opportunities, communications and other facilities and services, thus enabling us to evaluate the outlook with an impartial point of view.

We tried to find out if

Stevenage is situated to the north of London and south east of Saffron Walden.

Chapter 1

Stevenage remained, on the whole, unchanged until after the Second World War. Plans for expansion had been expected before the war. In 1944, Professor Abercrombie’s Greater London Plan suggested a ring of ‘satellite’, or new towns were to be built, to relieve London’s post-war housing problems. The problems were caused by several reasons;

London’s high-density population created almost unbearable amounts of pollution,

The congestion also made the journey to work difficult,

House prices were extremely high,

The congested and run down housing was unpleasant for the residents and many lived in substandard living conditions,

Schools were overcrowded and few had playgrounds or fields for the students,

No place for children to play,

Nowhere for Dogs to be worked,

Poor amenities.

The hope was that new towns would provide homes, work and recreation for their people within a self-contained community.

Being within forty miles of London and with reliable rail and road links to the north, planners decided that Stevenage was an ideal site for a new town. However, not everyone was so enthusiastic about Professor Abercrombie’s Greater London Plan. Farmers objected to the loss of over 3,000 acres of farming land and local people were discontented about being ‘guinea pigs’. They took their case to the House of Lords, but lost.

The new town was planned around Old Stevenage and was based on six residential neighbourhoods. The neighbourhoods were designed to be self contained, each with its own schools, health facilities, shops, community centres and church. Each was predicted to house roughly 10 – 12,000 people.

Distinctive features of New Towns

New towns often have a very different layout to those towns that have gradually developed over centuries. Stevenage is a typical new town, as it has been pre-planned and built in a short space of time rather than evolving and developing over a longer period of time. This creates a layout, which is similar to that of the Burgess model.

In the Burgess model theory he attempted to identify areas within Chicago based upon the outward expansion of the city and the socio-economic groupings of its inhabitants.

Although the main aim of his model was to describe residential structures and to show processes at work in a city, geographers have subsequently presumed that Burgess made certain assumptions:

Burgess’s concentric zones

1) Central business district (CBD)

2) Transition or twilight zone

3) Low-class housing

4) Medium-class housing

5) High-class housing

However, this model is an urban model. Urban models, like all models, have boundaries and are therefore open to criticism. Regardless of the advantage of simplicity, and his own admission that it was specific to one place and one period of time (the 1920s), the Burgess model has been criticised in some instances on reasons that did not exist when it was put forward.

This led to much of Stevenage being created in a very short amount of time.

Chapter 2 – Housing

While on our trip in Stevenage, we visited several different locations in order to collect data. These included various residential neighbourhoods, being Shephall, the Old Town, Bedwell and Chells.

In each area we recorded various details that would later help us to conclude our project. These details included; the type of housing, the age of housing, the density of the housing, the housing style, the size of the garden, the parking facilities, the privacy, which the location provided, and the condition of the housing.

It was clear from our results that some areas provided a better quality of life for the residence.

The site, which we visited, in the Old Town contained a mixture of large Victorian style houses, villas, and some semidetached houses. It did not appear as though the houses were too densely built together. The houses appearance were mostly all unique which was more interesting and attractive appearance.

They were all provided with a moderately sized garden which did present some privacy by the use of fences, hedges etc. They also had the opportunity to park in either their drive or garage.

The houses and the area surrounding, appeared to be well maintained, litter free and well furnished etc.

The second site we visited was Bedwell. This was the earliest parts of Stevenages new town. This area contained all houses looking very similar built during the late 40’s early 50’s. The planners of Bedwell had used this uniform look as an attempt for all residence to live with the same quality of living. This was because all the houses where of the same or similar size, and provided all the residence with a small garden. There was nowhere available for the inhabitants to park. This led those who had a car to park along the roads. There was limited amount of privacy available and in some cases neighbors were able to look from their house into the next. The houses were built fairly densely together and in some instances houses were only accessible by foot. I assume this makes it complicated for services to access some houses, i.e. the rubbish men and milkman. However the area and the houses in the area were all well maintained.

Shephall consisted of many terraced houses, which dated from the 1960’s. They were built in a similar, uniform style, once again in he attempt to give everyone an equal quality of living. There was not any offside parking provided. Most cars were parked along the roads, and a few had transformed their front gardens in to a parking space. All houses were supplied with a small front garden, but only the minority had flowers and plants growing in them. Here, as it was in Bedwell, was little privacy available for the residence.

Chells Manor was our final destination where we collected our data. I found this site to be the most pleasant of all the areas of those we visited that day. There was a wide range of types and sizes of the houses.

All houses were newly built, around the late 1990’s to 2000. There was more confidentiality available for the residence than any other area we visited. Each house was provided with a decently sized garden and at least one garage, so there was plenty of parking provided. The density of the housing was a little more dispersed than the other areas. Most gardens seemed to be well maintained, as was the houses themselves and the surrounding area. I presume that the residence of this area were possibly better of than some of the other areas, looking at the number, variety and style of the cars.

Kite diagrams showing the quality of environments in each area

Chapter 3 – Retail

The Town Centre of Stevenage provides a wide range of shopping and leisure facilities. It is also an important centre for employment opportunities. These facilities cater not only for those who live and work in the Town, but also for people who travel from other areas specifically to use these facilities.

There is also residential accommodation within the Town Centre. It is provided above the retail and service units and in the residential block, the Towers. Stevenage is known for its sub-regional centre for shopping and leisure activities. The Town Centre is also an important asset in terms of the amount of both public and private investment that has taken place in the past. It is important to maintain and enhance this investment in terms of both the facilities provided and the environment. The Town Centre provides a number of development and redevelopment opportunities, although with relatively restricted land resources the optimum use must be made of available land.

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