Bright ideas for Britain's new towns by Pat Franklin

Britain is to get lots of new towns to cope with an exploding population.   Here is a new concept to consider before lumbering the nation with more dull, ugly towns full of  identical cramped, inadequate houses that people really do not like.  On visits to Israel  I have come to know a medium size town which has really impressed me with its beauty, functionality and success in packing lots of people into a relatively small area and yet with no sense of overcrowding at all.

 The high density is not at all apparent in everyday life.  Every family has a spacious flat (apartment) with enviable storage, parking and walking distance to beautiful small parks, shops and schools.

How is this achieved?  I will describe a neighborhood I have come to know well.  It is about a 10 minute walk from the town centre and rail station, so the families do not need a car at all.  It consists of two long parallel roads,  built mainly with blocks of flats, no two alike.  Some are boring, but some are stunning.  And between the rows of flats, running the full length,  is the most beautiful park I have ever seen.

  1. Almost everyone lives in a flat, and they are designed for families;  even large families with several children live there quite happily.

  2. The blocks of flats are designed to be beautiful, with landscaped frontages, gorgeous entrances and many  on stilts to provide parking underneath.  Some have underground parking.  Yet they do not need to be expensive.

  3. The impressive entrances  have a secure ground floor area with locked storage rooms, one for each flat, so the flats never get cluttered up with unused stuff.

  4. They have lifts as well as stairs.

  5. They are built backing on to a long, narrow,  beautifully designed park with  two playgrounds, one each end.   The park has curvy paths ideal for cycling, with a wide central path ideal for roller blading, plus drinking fountains.  Dogs should be banned, but are not, and the beautiful  park is unfortunately full of dog dirt.  The four gates into the park are locked at night.

  6.  There are two  kindergartens opening on to the park. 

  7. The flats at the front of the blocks overlook the road.  The flats at the rear overlook the pretty park.

  8. The flats have spacious open plan kitchen, dining, living rooms opening on to balconies.

  9. They all have balconies.  Children in the rear flats can go out on their balconies to see if any friends are in the park.

  10. Community events   take place in the park.

  11. The bathrooms have small utility rooms attached, about 1m wide, wide enough to stack a washer and dryer.   They also have a window opening to a 4 line pulley-operated  wash line for hanging out washing.   Decorative screens are built over each lot of wash lines, so they are not an eyesore.  This one feature,  utility room with drying lines taking up such a small area, is the magic key to family friendly life in a flat!

  12. Even the sidewalks are beautiful!  The footpaths are often paved with coloured slabs laid in imaginative patterns.

  13. A neighbourhood doctor’s surgery and pharmacy can be incorporated into the plan.

  14. A neighbourhood grocery can be incorporated as well.

This is family friendly living despite being high density population.  It works!   In fact families there have told me they love living there. 

Britain needs  a shift from small, inadequate houses to spacious, family friendly flats.   I have seen how it is possible for flats to be really good and truly liveable – not ugly, cramped and crowded.

 It works for family life in Israel, and it could work in Britain.  The practicality of the flats, the beauty of the designs and the proximity of lovely parks and child care all mesh together to make this paradigm a winner for family life.

The flat doors open to the living area, no corridor.  The heating/cooling is electric hot/cool air through vents, so no radiators taking up wall space.  This would be expensive in Britain, so perhaps blocks of flats could have communal gas fired central heating, as in Osborne Court at Cowes, Isle of Wight.

Every flat has a solar panel connected to a water tank on the flat roof of the block, so there is at least some low energy warm water.

Each balcony has a drain which drains out on the car park area, so children can have a paddling pool on the balcony and the tile floor can be wet mopped without sweeping water down on anyone else’s balcony.

Of course the flats need to be soundproofed, but that is perfectly possible. 

So, to sum up, the new towns need to be composed mainly of  large, individually designed blocks of elegant , spacious apartments, no two blocks alike,  each one unique, and all built around small, but beautiful, parks, each park unique.

Note:  The neighbourhood I have described is one I happen to know well, but it is not the only such area.  There are other neighbourhoods  with large blocks of flats built around parks, and the concept is wonderful.  It reminds me of Central Park in New York.  This can be duplicated on a small town scale, and people really like it.  But the blocks of apartments should be unique designs - not the horrible brutalist style we have come to know and hate in Britain.




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