TPR, 69 (2) 1998
H. W. E. DAVIES
Continuity and change
The evolution of the British planning
The modern British planning system reached its half century in 1997. During
that period, the five basic legislative principles established by the Town and
Country Planning Act 1947 have remained substantially unaltered yet the
social, political and economic contexts of the planning system have changed
considerably. The result has been a radical change in planning practice, from
being a uniform, comprehensive system to one which is much more diverse in
its aims and methods. The paper examines the evolution of the planning system
and questions why the legislative principles were able to remain constant in the
context of such change.
Fifty years ago, on 8 August 1947, the Town and Country Planning Act 1947
received the Royal Assent. The appointed day for its coming into operation
came the following 1 July when virtually the whole of the previous planning
legislation was repealed and a new, comprehensive and universal system of land
use planning was established for England and Wales. The new Act was
paralleled by a separate Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1947 after
Some debate as to whether there should be a single Act for Great Britain.
By this Act, according to Wilfred Burns, former Chief Planner in the
Department of the Environment, 'the planning system was given by Parliament
to local authorities' (Burns, 1976, 684). Five basic principles were established for
Control of the development and use of land through the new planning system,
and these were:
U ~rofe~sor H. W. E. Davies is in the Department of Land Management and Development at the
~verslty of Reading, Whiteknights, PO Box 219, Reading RG6 6AW.
aper submitted August 1997 and accepted November 1997.
C *This is a revised and extended version of the paper presented at the National Planning
190nference and Exhibition 1997 of the Royal Town Planning Institute in Edinburgh on 12 June
. 97, under the title, 'Fifty years of planning achievements-the evolution of the planning system
1947', celebrating the Fiftieth Anniversary of the 1947 Town and Country Planning Act.
e Act, came into effect on the appointed day of 1 July 1948.
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