New Towns and associated urban extensions and designs of the post Second World War period (henceforth summarised as ‘New Towns’) are a remarkable social, planning and environmental achievement that deserve wider recognition. The New Towns Heritage Research Network (henceforth referred to as the ‘Network’) is a collection of towns, cities, universities and other organisations to advance the understanding of the significance of these places for their heritage and cultural contribution to modern society. The Network advocates the research and learning value these places can have for current and future urbanisation, growth and diversity.

The Heritage of New Towns is at risk due to social changes and lack of recognition from society in general. Yet the Network asserts that their heritages and legacies are highly relevant to contemporary planning of building new settlements, sustainable places, and identity of place. Network case studies (Milton Keynes, Harlow, Peterborough, Rotterdam and Saint Quentin Yvelines) have shown that post-war New Town architectural, design and planning heritage can play a crucial role in the planning and development of new growth.

The network was originally enabled by a 2017/18 Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) grant. At the conclusion of this project the Network agreed to develop a New Towns Heritage Agenda to increase the awareness and advocate the role of heritage in the future. The Network does not presume to speak for all New Towns. It sees the development of this Agenda as a starting point to promote debate around its content and to encourage others to join the Network and/or participate in its ongoing public programme.


Heritage is a contested concept, modernist built environment heritage even more so: all aspects of New Towns Heritage require painstaking analysis, interpretation and debate. But Heritage is also part of a dynamic and developing context. Understanding the core and essence of New Towns heritage can give it a positive role in urban development. However, heritage in New Towns is both strong>material and immaterial; material heritage involves objects, buildings and the urban structural elements. Immaterial heritage involves ideas, concepts, narratives and culture.

The development of a New Towns Heritage Agenda is seen by the Network as a response to securing this heritage legacy. Buildings as well as infrastructure of the initial New Town development period are under threat from demolition or neglect and need to be assessed for their heritage value. Appropriate conservation or heritage orders need to be employed as these places plan their next future phase and they need to be identifi ed before it is too late. Some progress towards protection and recognition of this heritage has been made in several New Towns with the designation of conservation areas and special heritage or cultural status but this should be greatly extended. The work of the 20th Century Society in the UK and Government and local authorities in the Netherlands is a very important start.

New Towns Heritage can only be successfully interpreted and protected in conjunction with diverse local stakeholders. Promoters of the value of New Towns Heritage must be prepared to be challenged by those living and working in these places.


New Towns, often contested and challenged by commercial pressures and social changes since they were constructed, provide a framework of roads, landscapes, public spaces, town centres and neighbourhoods that still shape the planning of new settlements today. Their main characteristic is a Master Plan in which New Towns explored a wide range of new concepts in planning, architecture and landscape design as well as a commitment to public services and community coherence. These concepts are as relevant today, when many countries are faced with the challenge of meeting the housing and employment needs of growing populations, as they were in the decades after 1945. Their spatial as well as their programmatic importance for the community should be recognized and reinterpreted to gain future relevance.

New Towns need reinvention to face their future. Heritage can play a role in this reinvention; it gives identity and character, promotes civic pride and prevents the generic tendencies in contemporary planning. The Network believes that creating the narrative of the New Towns in a comprehensible and attractive way needs to engage residents, businesses, professionals, public organisations and politicians.

Furthermore, New Towns are part of an international – European and global – family. They share the same DNA. For that reason, it is fruitful to exchange >experiences and knowledge to learn, adapt and create new opportunities – a key objective for the Network.



The New Towns Heritage Research Network aims to:

  1. Achieve greater awareness and recognition of the signifi cance of New Town Heritage; and those places that share a New Town DNA;
  2. Advocate New Town Heritage policies locally and nationally which include specifi c protection for key buildings, spaces and infrastructures in the post war New Towns in recognition of their unique modernist heritage character; and,
  3. Promote case studies and principles of New Town planning and design, within the current urban growth agenda, to shape and deliver successful liveable cities for all.

The Network will further these aims through continued academic and community Research and through the development of a co-ordinated Public Programme of activities and events.


The Network will use Research to raise awareness of, advocate protection for and actively promote case studies in New Town Heritage by:

  1. Elaborating common approaches for cultural assessment (valuing) and using these methods in future growth planning processes and development;
  2. Promoting research on best practices, methods and techniques for preservation, including sustainable (re-) usage of infrastructure;
  3. Recognising interpretation and re-use of New Town Heritage as important aspects of economic, ecological and social sustainability


The Network will use a co-ordinated activity programme to raise awareness of, advocate protection for and actively promote case studies in New Town Heritage by:

  1. Targeting New Town residents, businesses and public organisations as well as academic and special interest groups to widen enthusiasm and participation in New Town research;
  2. Involving children and young people in educational activities about their New Town Heritage to support New Town reinvention for the next generation;
  3. Widening the participation of other New Towns through a diverse programme of projects, networks and collaborations, and,
  4. Lobbying local and national government and public institutions for the protection of New Town Heritage.

The New Towns Heritage Agenda as a Call for Action is inclusive, transformative and open-ended in its appreciation of the legacy of post Second World War New Towns and associated urban extensions and designs. We would like to extend our invitation to other towns and cities and interested parties to join the Network

New Towns Heritage Research Network
Rotterdam, 15th November 2018

The New Towns Heritage Research Network project was supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council [grant number AH/P006450/1]. The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funds world-class, independent researchers in a wide range of subjects: ancient history, modern dance, archaeology, digital content, philosophy, English literature, design, the creative and performing arts, and much more. This fi nancial year the AHRC will spend approximately £98m to fund research and postgraduate training in collaboration with a number of partners. The quality and range of research supported by this investment of public funds not only provides social and cultural benefi ts but also contributes to the economic success of the UK. For further information on the AHRC, please go to: