University of Leicester
2015_HARRISON_RS_PhD.pdf (1.56 MB)

Urban Planning and the Motor Car, 1955-1977: Responses to the growth of private motoring in Leicester and Milton Keynes

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posted on 2015-06-29, 13:58 authored by Richard Simon Harrison
This thesis examines the response of British urban planners to the rise of private motoring in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. The examination begins with an exploration of important planning documents and events of the 1950s and 1960s, relating to the issue of rising car ownership. It is followed by an exploration of the response of urban planners to rising car ownership in Leicester and Milton Keynes. This research covers an important stage in the rise of car culture in Britain and an important stage in the evolution of urban planning. From 1950 to 1960, the number of cars on Britain’s roads rose nearly two-and-a-half times to 5.5 million, which was seen as the beginning of mass car ownership. Although this prospect was often welcomed as a sign of affluence, it was also deemed to require a robust response from physical planners to prevent widespread traffic congestion and environmental nuisance. In this thesis I make four arguments. I argue, firstly, that it was in the 1950s and 1960s that a durable framework for approaching questions of urban transport in a motorised Britain was first worked out. Secondly, the prospect of motorisation posed fresh questions about the type of urban society that planning should be employed to support. The planners elected to encourage automobility and consumerism, but were also obliged to give more recognition to the importance of building conservation, urban environmental quality, and public transport. Thirdly, urban planners were directed by a powerful set of economic and social forces to plan in the car’s favour. Fourthly and finally, I argue that the decision to accommodate motorisation helped to provoke a backlash against sweeping redevelopment and top-down planning that altered planners’ relationship with the public, giving rise to a greater appreciation for the value of the existing urban fabric.



Gunn, Simon; Kyd, Sally

Date of award


Author affiliation

School of Historical Studies

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD



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