chapter  13
16 Pages

The Origins of Newton Aycliffe Peter Bowden

Towns do not come into being by chance. Most owe their origins to some locational advantage in respect of trade or defence; a few are the result of self-glorification. Not until 1946 in Britain, however, did the planning and building of complete communities first become official government policy, and since then similar projects have been started in many other countries. The main object in establishing the majority of British new towns has been to decentralise population and industry from London and other large conurbations; a few new towns, however, have been designed to provide housing and other social capital for people already employed in existing local industry. Newton Aycliffe falls into the latter category, and owes its existence to the establishment of a Royal Ordnance Factory at Aycliffe, near Darlington, in 1940. After the war the ROF was converted into a government industrial estate administered by North Eastern Trading Estates Limited (now the English Industrial Estates Corporation) on behalf of the Board of Trade. The building of the town, on the other hand, was entrusted to the Aycliffe Development Corporation acting as the agent of the Ministry of Town and Country Planning (now the Department of the Environ­ ment). This duality of ministerial control — over workplace and home — is unique among British new towns, the normal practice being for development corporations to exercise responsibility for the administra­ tion of industrial sites, as well as for the provision of social assets.1