chapter  6
31 Pages

The sociologist of the town-planning movement

THE PROBLEM OF ASSESSING GEDDES’ IMPACT ON THE nascent town planning movement is not at all straightforward. Historically he remained outside the mainstream of the movement in comparison with, for example, Thomas Adams and Raymond Unwin.1 Yet, subsequently, he has been claimed as the founding father of planning methodology, though even here the extent of his influence has not been made at all clear. In fact, Geddes attached himself to the movement at a late stage in his career when his theories, objectives, and methodology were already complete. Town planners turned to him because he seemed to have some ready answers to vital questions. What many of the pioneer practitioners of planning found was that their training, often in design-related skills such as architecture, was inadequate to help them with many problems that they faced. This seemed less serious in the early days when town extension schemes could draw on the ideas generated by the work in Port Sunlight, Bournville, and New Earswick. But by the time of the 1909 Act, although it was only devoted to suburban extension schemes, municipal councillors in large cities had to be converted to the idea of planning the urban environment. If planning was a serious commitment then planning practice needed to grow to encompass the whole town and city, perhaps the city and region.2 Thus leaders of the town-planning movement, like Raymond Unwin and Patrick Abercrombie, came to appreciate Geddes’ perception of the city and region as an integrated whole. He became the guide and adviser to the small group of planners who were responsible for establishing a professional response to the theory and practice of planning.3