30 JANUARY 1926, Page 11


AT the very core of the Garden of England a battle of permanent historical importance is being engaged on behalf both of the beauty of the country and the health conditions of the coming industrial worker. No one is More closely and personally concerned than the Londoner, whose favourite seaside places are threat- ened by the opening of coal nits, that will find their market almost exclusively in London. Unless thoughtful care. is taken the whole of one of the loveliest and most historic closes . of England may, become a dirty and unlovely smudge, worthy of the name of the maimed of 'murdered forms that we have been forced to christen "the Black Country." Twenty-six coal pits and a multi- tude' Of iron Or steel mines are about to be " developed " within a small area rimmed by places familiar to the affections of all of us: Here are a few of the' names, in geographical order :. Canterbury, Whitstable, Herne Bay, Margate, Broadstairs, Ramsgate, Sandwich, , Deal, Walmer, Dover, Folkestone, Elliarn, Midge. In 4 the local authorities of forty-five districts have put then'. heads together to devise a_ means Of harnessing new ue and old beauty to the service of :social and industrial progress.... Aftei, all, the industrial revolution was Calamity On'becithse 'no' One had 'foresight enough to lino:gine: the effects of al huge new population or unselfishness enough to prepare_ for the social welfare of posterity: The co-operative endeavour of these forty- five districts,. aided by a group of noted archaeologists, arehiteeti, 'artists,' geologists; and industrialists, is the most Vital reformation ir. what may be called our home history that has been recorded for' half a century. milijOI-hugger.-Mugger --development of urban areas were not formally and officially recognized by Parliament until 1923, when an amendment was passed to the vaguer town-planning Acts dating from 1909. The Minister of Health was then given power to authorize a town-planning scheme for a built-up area, "where it appears . . . that on account of the special archi- tectural, historic or artistic interest attaching to a locality it is expedient to do so with a view to preserving the existing character and to protecting the existing features of the locality." This may be said to have consummated the permission to recognize the value of beauty.

Every detail in the prospective management of this new area touches the imagination of those who have any wish to build a new "Jerusalem in England's green and pleasant land." The very first step is to estimate the probable growth of population and housing needs. A rough calculation for East Kent is as follows :— 20 coal pits at 10,000 workers per pit . .

.. 200,000 Steel and kindred mining . . . . 28,000 "Consequential population" . . . . 72,000 Total . . . . .. 290,000 persons

The scheme for what is now generally known as "regional development" should therefore allow for nearly 100,000 houses plus parks and playing-grounds for the whole population. We may take it that merely in terms of hard cash the value of these old towns and popular seaside places exceeds by a good many million of pounds the value of the coal ; and therefore, even setting aside their incalculable artistic and historic value, it would be bad business, as well as bad morality, to blacken the reputation of Canterbury or Sandwich, of Margate or Folkestone. There is an entry in an existing guide- book, which records that the Keep of the Norman Castle at Canterbury "forms an admirable coal cellar for the gas works " ! We cannot, even for our pockets' sake, allow the face of the country to suffer the indignity of the interior of this old Keep. East Kent is not an admirable place for the deposit of coal dust or the crowding of miners' shacks.

The" blessed word," which more than any other proclaims the new science, is "zoning." The place of the pit mouths is known; as in other new towns, such as the Welwyn Garden City, the site of the factories is fixed. It is clear that within a near radius of that black centre only the most necessary buildings must be permitted. The workers must not be very far distant, but we can to some extent annihilate distance ; and the laying out of the workers' houses will depend very greatly on the regional ,survey, on the contour, the subsoil, even the view and the oppor- tunity for "gardens. An agricultural belt is desirable; and there should be capacious open spaces, laid out for recreation. East Kent is peculiarly important, because apart from the planning of the new town itself, it is necessary to consider the preservation of towns and villages planned a thousand years ago. Some of these are already grievously threatened by the builders of what Carlyle used to call "concrete mendacities " ; and since he wrote, his adjective has acquired an ominous double meaning. It is perhaps not too much to hope that the survey, already considerably advanced, for the regional planning scheme for East Kent, will bring into the open the crimes of the speculative jobbing builder. Town. planning is, of course, especially necessary where an indus- trial call summons a large new population ; but regional planning, if not strictly town -planning, is -a duty laid upon local authorities in a hundred districts. Hertfordshire has taken a certain lead in this respect. The object is first to protect the charm of the rural and suburban aren_q from those who erect what are called Dormitories for London, partly to encourage the decentralization of factories into pi actv-whe're-the workman may enjoy the health and charm of a country neighbourhood. Mafia& is faced by the proximity of a new town of 30,000 people, just as Canterbury by an industrial centre of 200,000 or more. But the importance of the East Kent scheme is pre-eminent, and has many features peculiar to itself. What happened, most grimly, by Durham or Birmingham- or Stoke, is happening along either side a line from Canterbury to Deal. Our task is to make sure that the. blessing of the discovery of wealth shall not be converted' into a social curse, that new history shall not wipe out old history, that industrial wealth shall not entail aesthetic poverty.

What has been done so far in East Kent is wholly admir- able. A thorough survey, based on real imaginative perception, has been carried through and published since the Kentish -local authorities met the Minister of Health in the Guild Hall at Canterbury, two and a-half years ago. That meeting may one 'day be taken as an historical crisis in the second phase of the English indus- trial revolution. We should perhaps be a little ashamed that our town-planning adventures have, hitherto, stirred much more enthusiasm in the United States than in Britain. Let us appreciate our own virtues, to the end of practising them more widely and more consciously.