Patrick Abercrombie
Greater London Plan 1944
Excerpt from: Greater London Plan 1944, by Patrick Abercrombie, His Majesty's Stationery Office, London 1945







“All things are ready if our mind be so”

A Plan for London and the whole Region, which might be considered to fall under the metropolitan influence, had long been overdue when the Royal Commission on the Location of the Industrial Population reported in 1939. London was therein singled out for immediate action.
The war, in addition to the complete cessation of normal life and growth, brought three new factors on to the scene - the destruction of large areas, particularly in the centre; the evacuation of a large proportion of the population; and the industrial upheaval due to almost universal war production. Not only the necessity for some plan of action became obvious; the opportunity presented itself to locate population and industry more logically, to improve transport radically, and to determine a proper use of the land. Finally, the ultimate size of London was inescapably involved.
This Plan is an attempt to make use of the opportunity. It continues without break the plan prepared for the London County Council and should be studied and read together with it.
It is hoped that it may make some contribution to the future state of this country and to enable it to settle down to a life of peace.


Since the beginning of the present war three plans, dealing with parts of the London Region, have been prepared, and each is complementary to the other two. The City of London has prepared proposals dealing with planning and reconstruction in the vital Square Mile at the hub of the Metropolis. The County of London Plan, 1943, deals with the area beyond this up to the confines of the administrative County boundary. From this line again, outwards to a distance of approximately 30 miles from the centre, the present study, the Greater London Plan 1944, is concerned. But these three complementary studies are each investigations into parts only of the one and indivisible Metropolis, whose boundaries are invisible to the naked eye, unrealised by the normal citizen - save when indicated by rate demands - and unmeaning to the planner.
These three different areas are all administratively of first-rate importance. The compact unity of the City and the more widely flung control of the L.C.C., superimposed except for certain lesser functions on the areas of the Metropolitan Boroughs, contrast sharply with the multiplicity of administrative units in Greater London, with its 2,599 square miles divided up into 143 local authorities. In the area there is also a vast number of statutory authorities whose functions one way and another impinge upon planning, such as the Port of London Authority, the Thames Conservancy, Drainage and Hospital Boards, Gas, Electric Supply, Railway and Canal Companies, etc. Of the 143 local authorities, nearly every one has a planning scheme prepared, or in course of preparation, independently of its neighbours. Less joint preparation has been evidenced here than in any other urban group in the country. Although a few Advisory and Executive Committees have been at work, there has been a lamentable failure to realise a need for co-ordination in planning all round London.
A glance in retrospect is here necessary to summarise the valiant attempts to overcome this failure, but it is with profound regret that one looks back at the years of wasted effort and lost opportunities.

Retrospect of attempts at Co-ordination
During the last war the London Society was instrumental in preparing a plan for London which was full of guidance for the future, especially in regard to roads and open spaces.
In March, 1920, the Unhealthy Areas Committee, presided over by Mr. Neville Chamberlain, issued an interim report which dealt particularly with the London areas, and in April, 1921, their final report was issued.
Recommendation 11 of this report was to the effect that some competent person or persons should be at once authorised to prepare a plan for the reconstruction of London and the surrounding country, including the Home Counties as well as the Metropolitan and City Police Districts.
Recommendation 12 was to the effect that an inquiry should be instituted without delay as to the nature, scope and functions of a new authority or combination of authorities to give statutory effect to such a plan, with such modifications as may be thought necessary, to control transport and to make such financial adjustments between the local authorities concerned as may be required.
Shortly after this the Greater London Regional Planning Committee was formed at the instigation of the Minister of Health, and Dr. Raymond Unwin was appointed as Technical Adviser. This Committee, composed of a large number of persons representing the various local planning authorities, was unfortunately unable to come to any far reaching decisions. The reports which they issued consisted mainly of a series of valuable contributions by Dr. Unwin, on which if action had been taken, the planning problems of Greater London would have been vastly more measurable today. But by 1931 sufficient funds were not forthcoming for the continuance of the Committee on a satisfactory basis and its usefulness came to an end a little later.
After this Committee ceased to exist,. a Standing Conference on London Regional Planning was constituted by the Minister of Health and it held its first meeting in October, 1937. The area of the work of this conference was defined as being the London Traffic Area. It was composed of one or two representatives from each of the County Councils, the City of London and the County Boroughs, two representatives from the Association of Municipal Corporations, two from the Urban District Councils’ Association and two from the Rural District Councils’ Association, and also a representative of the Ministry of Health. Sir Kingsley Wood, the Minister of Health, stated at that meeting that the new Conference would differ from the old Committee in that it was not to be asked to consider and make proposals for the planning of the region ab initio but only to consider such questions as might be referred to it. He suggested that the most convenient method for the Conference would be to appoint a technical committee, composed of the officers of representative authorities, who would make reports to the Conference on the referred questions.
The meeting appointed a Technical Committee composed of the appropriate Chief Technical Officer of each constituent council, three nominated Municipal Engineers, representing the Boroughs, Urban Districts and Rural Districts respectively, and the Deputy Chief Town Planning Inspector of the Ministry of Health. From time to time the Standing Conference, by means of the Technical Committee, dealt with various matters referred to it, but it was not until shortly before the outbreak of war that it was able to get from the Ministry of Health approval of their decision to ask the Technical Committee to consider and report to them on:
(a) ways and means of preparing a Regional or Master Plan for the London Region; and
(b) the possibility of establishing an agricultural belt around London.
By this time the preparations for war made it impossible for the Technical Committee to function, and before they were able to resume their labours, two further important events occurred.
In 1941 the Minister of Works and Buildings asked the L.C.C. to prepare a Plan (published last year as the County of London Plan 1943) and in 1942 he asked the Standing Conference if they would agree (which they did) to his appointing an expert to prepare an Outline Plan and Report for Greater London. The Minister’s instructions included a direction that the plan was to be prepared in collaboration with the Technical Committee of the Standing Conference. With this, collaboration, assured, free, and fruitful over the period of preparation, and with the Plan now submitted, there may be permitted the hope that a new and necessary unity in the planning of this vital region may at length begin to take shape.