chapter  2
The Scale and Causes of Suburban Growth
Pages 21

During the inter-war period the rate of suburban growth in England and Wales was far higher than in any comparable period before or since. According to Best (1964, p. 352), whereas at the end of the First World War 5.9 per cent of England and Wales was urban land, by the beginning of the Second World War the corresponding figure was 8.6 per cent. An increase of nearly 50 per cent in the areal extent of urban land had taken place within little more than 20 years, judging by Best's figures, while the urban population had grown by less than 10 per cent. The fact that virtually all this increase in the amount of 'urban' land was accounted for by suburbanization on an unparalleled scale accords well with the popular conception of the period. The facts are striking. Despite noteworthy exceptions, such as Welwyn Garden City, the creation of new urban settlements was rare; but the provision of urban land per head of population increased by one-third. The most urbanized country in the world at the end of the First World War (Hall, 1966, p. 18, table 3) had by the beginning of the Second World War become one of the most suburbanized, as garden suburbs around existing urban areas became the almost universal form of new development. The redevelopment of existing urban areas was minimal by comparison, despite the huge legacy of slum property bequeathed by the nineteenth century (Richardson and Aldcroft, 1968, p. 42). Nearly all the 4,200,000 dwellings that Becker (1951, p. 321) calculated were constructed in England and Wales between the end of the First World War and the beginning of the Second World War were suburban. Nineteenth-century cities survived essentially intact as they became enveloped by broad zones of spacious, loosely-connected suburban development.