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Identity Statement

Reference code(s): MCC/PL/MP
Held at: London Metropolitan Archives
  Click here to find out how to view this collection at ›
Date(s): 1920-1961
Level of description: Collection
Extent: 3.9 linear metres
Name of creator(s): MCC | Middlesex County Council x Middlesex County Council


Administrative/Biographical history:

The Planning Department existed from 1947-1965 and reported to the Planning Committee.

Housing and Town Planning Act 1919: This act was an attempt to alleviate the problems of long delays endured by local authorities awaiting planning approval for schemes (parliamentary approval being necessary in some instances). Planning schemes became obligatory for boroughs and urban districts with populations exceeding 20,000.

Town Planning Act 1925: Under this legislation the lower tier authorities were allowed to draw up schemes for land which was either undergoing development or had the potential to be developed. The following Middlesex authorities were obliged to draw up schemes: Acton; Brentford and Chiswick; Ealing; Edmonton; Enfield; Finchley; Hendon; Heston and Isleworth; Hornsey; Southall; Southgate; Tottenham; Willesden and Wood Green.

In the inter-war years three joint planning committees were set up in the county with representation from the County Council. The North Middlesex Joint Town Planning Committee (1926-1945) covered Edmonton, Enfield, Finchley, Friern Barnet, Harrow on the Hill, Hendon, Hornsey, Kingsbury, Potters Bar, Southgate, Tottenham, Wealdstone, Wembley, Willesden, Wood Green and South Mimms. This committee was appointed under the 1925 Act. The County Council sent two representatives to the Committee but had no voting rights. In December 1945 the Committee became the North Middlesex and South-East Hertfordshire Joint Planning Committee (1945-1948) and now included Barnet, Cheshunt, East Barnet, Elstree and had representatives from the Hertfordshire County Council and the Middlesex County Council. The West Middlesex Joint Town Planning Committee (1922-1945) covered Acton, Brentford, Chiswick, Ealing, Feltham, Greenford, Hampton Wick, Hanwell, Hayes, Heston and Isleworth, Ruislip-Northwood, Southall-Norwood, Staines (UD and RD), Sunbury, Uxbridge (UD and RD), Yiewsley and Barnes. The County Council sent two representatives to the Committee but had no voting rights. This region was the first in the Greater London area to be the subject of a twentieth century planning report. In December 1945 the Committee became West Middlesex Joint Planning Committee (1945-1948) and now included Twickenham. The Central Middlesex Joint Planning Committee (1945-1948) covered Harrow, Hendon, Wembley and Willesden.

Town and Country Planning Act 1932: Local authorities were given planning powers over developed areas for the first time. The process of preparation and awaiting approval for schemes remained very lengthy, and the legislation still remained with the lower tier authorities and not the county councils, so producing very localised schemes. The Ministry of Health (which had responsibility for planning) had no effective powers and could provide no financial assistance. County Councils were however responsible for enforcing certain provisions of the schemes, namely those relating to county roads, open space and building lines, and in some cases actually owned the land which was the subject of the scheme. Finally compensation for planning restrictions and prohibitions was high and held back progressive local authorities.

In the inter-war period the country entered an economic recession which produced areas of high employment and depression. Migration of workers to London and Middlesex seeking employment rose sharply, and was indeed encouraged, until it was realised that to have high concentrations of the working population in the south-east was in itself undesirable and a more evenly distributed population was preferable. In Middlesex the population rose at a rate of 30.8% between 1921 and 1931 (5 times above the normal rate and more than any other administrative county) and at a rate of 27.4% between 1931 and 1939 (7 times above the normal rate). The rise was due less to the rising birth rate than to adult migration as people moved out of London, surrounding counties and areas of depression in the north and west to occupy the new housing in Middlesex and to work in the industries which were growing up around the new arterial roads.

Green Belt: The growth of transport systems enabled the rising working populations in London and Middlesex to live in the suburbs and commute into work. This in turn produced a housing boom - in 1939 a third of all houses in England and Wales had been built since 1918 and 2,700,000 of these had been built since 1930. Concern grew about the detrimental effects development was having on rural areas and in 1927 Neville Chamberlain (Minister of Health) set up the Greater London Regional Planning Committee. Chamberlain called for the establishment of an agricultural belt around the greater London area to separate the capital from development in the surrounding satellite areas. Furthermore, the Committee technical adviser Sir Raymond Unwin urged that recreation land be preserved for those living in London and Middlesex from a girdle of open space encircling the greater London area. Unwin argued that open spaces should not (as current legislation stood) be planned around building land, but that building development be planned around open spaces. The concept of Green Belt was given full backing by the County Council.

Standing Conference on London Regional Planning: The Standing Conference was established in 1937. After the abolition of the Greater London Regional Planning Committee it was felt by the Ministry of Town and Country Planning and other interested parties that the region required an advisory and consultative body to assist the local joint planning committee.

The Barlow Report: The Barlow Commission was appointed in 1938 to enquire into the causes of geographical distribution of industries, the disadvantages of concentrations of industry and industrial populations and to advise on any probable changes which might occur of remedial measures which should be made. The Commission's report was not made until after the outbreak of the Second World War. But its recommendations were very influential and provided an impetus for post-war planning legislation. The report recognised that there were problems in having large industrial concentrations and that having no effective central planning authority (that is a Ministry of Planning) was a hindrance to solving problems. London and the Home Counties presented the single largest and most significant problem due to the very high levels of migration. The establishment of a National Industrial Board was recommended to regulate industrial development, although some members of the Commission argued for a Ministry of Planning with full executive powers which liaised at a high level with the local authorities. Existing policies were condemned as inadequate, particularly with reference to the south-east and the suggestion was made that migration there should be positively discouraged. The Ministry of Town and Country Planning was created following the recommendations of the Barlow Report, so providing a basis for the concept of all round planning.

Greater London Plan 1944: In 1944 Professor Sir Patrick Abercrombie prepared an advisory plan for the Greater London area for the new Ministry of Town and Country Planning. The Plan was based upon four concentric rings. The innermost ring was an urban one where both the density of population and the level of congestion were too high; the second ring was a suburban one where population levels were tolerable; the third ring was designated Green belt and the fourth was an outer county ring. Abercrombie proposed that the Green Belt be preserved from building development as far as possible to provide recreation land for Londoners and to halt urbanization. He urged that the fourth outer ring be preserved as open countryside. To relieve congestion in the inner ring Abercrombie suggested migration be encouraged out to the outer country ring into very carefully planned towns. In 1945 Sir Patrick became Town Planning Consultant to the Middlesex County Council.

Advisory Committee on London Regional Planning: The Committee was established in 1945 with a mandate to draw up a plan to serve as a broad directive to the planning authorities within the region (as defined by Abercrombie's Greater London Plan). Comments and suggestions were to be drawn from the local joint planning committees and authorities in the region.

Middlesex County Council Planning Department 1947-1965

Town and Country Planning Act 1947: This Act was the basis for all post war planning law and fundamentally affected the law concerning the ownership and development of land. All previous planning legislation was repealed.

The main terms of the Act as they affected local government were:
1 County Councils and County Boroughs became planning authorities, meaning that from 1 July 1948 the Middlesex County Council became the planning authority for Middlesex.
2 Planning authorities were to survey their areas and prepare a Development Plan
3 Planning authorities were empowered to administer new legislation concerning development control. No landowner could develop her/his land without permission from (and paying a fee to) his planning authority. Planning authorities were to register all planning applications and then study and decide whether a development could take place. A national fund of 300 million was set aside to compensate landowners for the loss of development value. The law relating to compensation changed and the value of compensation was now given only for existing (and not potential) land value.
4 Wide powers were given to planning authorities to use compulsory purchasing powers to buy and develop land
5 Control of advertisements, exercised only in the interests of amenity and public safety. Planning authorities did not have control over subject matter. The following four types of advertisement hoarding all received automatic consent from planning authorities: (i) Functional hoardings, notices produced by local authorities, public transport authorities and statutory undertakers; (ii) Miscellaneous hoardings; for example referring to doctors and institutions; (iii) Temporary notices; the sale and letting of property, non-commercial activities; (iv) Businesses; referring to business premises. All other advertisement hoardings required local authority consent and were required to be clean, tidy, safe and non-obstructive. Consents were valid for three years. The Middlesex County Council advised against large hoardings near open spaces, areas of special architectural or historic interest or residential areas. In some areas (called areas of special control so designated by the County Council or the lower tier authorities) advertising hoarding were limited as to size and type.
6 A Central Land Board was established to deal with claims for depreciation in land values and determine development charges.
7 Planning authorities were given extensive powers to acquire and develop land. Additional finance was available for this.

The Middlesex County Council now had functions which may be broadly divided into two categories; preparation of the Middlesex Development Plan and administration of development control. The decision was made to set up a Planning Committee and Planning Department. The Committee met for the first time on 28 March 1947 under the chairmanship of Bernard Lewis. The County Planning Committee set up, in consultation with the County Planning Officer, four Area Planning Sub-Committees representing the lower tier authority areas. An equal number of County Councillors and District Councillors sat on each committee.

The four Area Planning Committees were: North Middlesex (Edmonton, Enfield, Finchley, Friern Barnet, Hornsey, Potters Bar, Southgate, Tottenham, Wood Green); Central Middlesex (Harrow, Hendon, Wembley, Willesden); West Middlesex (Acton, Ealing, Southall, Hayes and Harlington, Ruislip-Northwood, Uxbridge, Yiewsley and West Drayton) and South Middlesex (Brentford and Chiswick, Heston and Isleworth, Twickenham, Feltham, Staines, Sunbury on Thames).

The Planning Department followed this structure and had a section dealing with each area as represented by the Sub-Committee areas. Each section was headed by an Area Planning Officer who was based at the County Planning office but served her or his own area and controlled her or his own staff.

Middlesex Development Planning as the first function of the Council as a planning authority. Each authority was required to survey their areas and prepare a Development Plan within three years of 1 July 1948, which was to be a survey of land use, population trends and statistics, properties, industries, transport, recreation and leisure facilities within their areas. This plan was to indicate the trend of future development and the allocation of land. The Plan was be submitted to the Ministry for approval and reviewed every five years. The Planning Committee concerned itself with its responsibilities as a development controller for the first few years of its existence and was not able to give full attention to the County Development Plan. The Planning Officer requested extra staff in 1949 to work on the Plan and the Minister of Town Planning and Local Government extended the time limit for the submission of the Plan until July 1952.

To help stimulate interest in the Plan and deal with possible objections to its proposals the County Planning Officer recommended that a pamphlet be produced by the Planning Department to explain and publicise the Council's policies. This pamphlet entitled "Mind Your Own Middlesex" was published in 1950 and in simple terms explained the technicalities of town planning and encouraged people to make known their views. It aroused interest on a national level as it was the first such publication by a County Council.

In March 1951 a Draft Development Plan was produced. The Middlesex Development Plan was presented to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government on 30 June 1952. The policy of the Plan was based on the Greater London Plan as drawn up by Abercrombie. The principal of the four rings of development was upheld together with the argument that a reduction of the population of Middlesex and decentralisation of industry was required. The Plan defined areas for industry, homes, recreation, education, civic and leisure amenities and green belt and comprehensive development.

The format of the Plan was written matter including written statement and report of the survey on the Plan and written statement and report of the survey on the comprehensive development areas; and maps consisting of County Map, Programme Map, Comprehensive Development Area Maps, Designation Maps, Street Authorisation Maps and Communications Maps.

The County Development Map was one required by law and also required to be drawn at a scale of 1 inch to the mile except in cases of London or of County Boroughs where a larger scale of 6 inches to the mile was requested. However because of the special problems of Middlesex (high density) the whole County was allowed to be treated as County Borough so the County Development Plan was drawn on the larger scale making it the largest scheme of detailed planning ever drawn up in Britain.

A public enquiry was held in 1953 conducted by Ministry Inspectors to deal with the 7,500 public objections to the Plan. The Plan was accepted, after certain modification, in 1956. A Draft review was produced in 1962. The first review of the Plan took place in 1962 and was submitted to the Ministry on 1 January 1963. The review was in general terms an update and reappraisal of the original Plan and certainly reinforced its principals. The restraint of office space in Middlesex had become as important as the restraint of industry by this date. The Review took consideration of the modifications and amendments made by the 1953 Public Enquiry. The period that the reviewed Plan took into consideration was extended to 1981. A Public Enquiry into the Review was held on 15 October 1963. A total of 159 objections were received and considered by the inspectors. The review was published in March 1965.

From the time when the Middlesex County Council first became a planning authority the Council was keen to delegate to the boroughs and district councils as much as was permissible under the 1947 Act of the administration of development control. Delegation and decentralisation was allowed under the terms of the Act as long as this did not overburden the lower tier authorities or hinder the progress of the County Development Plan. The local authorities themselves were strongly in favour of delegation. The process of determining the degree of delegation and decentralisation involved not just the County Council and the local authorities but also the Town and Country Planning Ministry (or Ministry of Town and Country Planning from 1951). Middlesex County Council played a national role in this in that the degree of pressure placed upon the Council by its very vocal local authorities (who had been very active in pre-war planning and to whom the County Council was for the most part sympathetic) brought in full and exhaustive negotiation on the subject and so provided a model for other local authorities. The administrative expenses of the local authorities in carrying out these functions were borne by them and not the County Council.

1) Planning permission: Private landowners wishing to develop their land were required to apply for this planning permission to their planning authority. In Middlesex this function was delegated to the lower tier authorities. A development charge was also to be paid, until this was abolished under the terms of the Town and Country Planning Act 1953. The local authorities received the applications, registered and numbered them (a legal requirement) and then informed applicants of their statutory rights. A copy of the proposed plan was sent to the County Council and another to the Central Land Board. The County Council's Area Planning Officer studied the application and had to decide whether it should be dealt with either by his office or delegated to the district council. The County Council would normally deal with cases which were likely to affect the County Development Plan; give rise to a liability for compensation; affect a County or Trunk road (an important consideration in Middlesex where there was a lot of road building). If the application fell into any of these three categories then the Area Planning Officer would keep the case (which would have to be administered by his or her staff and passed by the local Planning Area Sub-Committee), and inform the local authority of the decision. These applications were known as excepted applications and could involve the Area Planning Officer in high level discussions with other County Council departments such as Highways, Education, Architects, Valuers; other neighbouring county councils; and the Ministry. If an application was not an excepted case it would be returned to the local authority for processing.

If the local authority (or the County Council) objected to the decision of the Area Planning Sub-Committee the application might be referred up to the County Council Planning Committee. The final appeal lay with the Ministry. On average during the period 1948-1965 80% of planning applications were referred back to the local authorities and only 20% remained with the County Council. On average during the same period 12,000 planning applications were made a year (peaking at 14,000- 15,000 in 1961-1962).

2) Compensation: Compensation for restrictive planning permission or refusal to grant permission was tightened up under the 1947 Act and available only from the Ministry after it had consulted the Planning authority. The Town and Country Planning Act 1954 provided a new form of compensation. Compensation here was only available if a landowner was unable to obtain the development value of his land by the local authority using a compulsory purchase order to buy the land at its existing use value before November 1958 or by the imposition of planning restrictions by the Planning authority (subject to exceptions) which would stop or restrict building development. The Town and Country Planning Act 1963 laid down that compensation had to be provided by planning authorities when planning permission was refused for certain development. This also applied to the enlargement of buildings when permission was sought to enlarge them by less than one tenth of their cubit content or floor space.

3) Other powers: Subject to prior consultation with the Council the district councils could make statutory orders and issue notices relating to:
(i) revocation and modification of planning permission;
(ii) the discontinuation of authorised uses of land;
(iii) preservation of trees and woodland;
(iv) proper maintenance of derelict and waste land;
(v) preservation of historic or architecturally outstanding buildings;
(vi) control of development carried out without planning permission or breaking planning law;
(vii) control of advertisements

Middlesex Planning Committee retained the right to initiate actions relating to the above. Any claims for compensation in these cases were met by the County Council except in circumstances where the district council ad acted without the Council's permission.

The Town and Country Planning Act came into force on 16 August 1959. The main provisions as affecting planning authorities were:
(i) the introduction of additional publicity for planning applications, ensuring that owners and tenants were informed of applications affecting them;
(ii) the securing of the market value of property subject to compulsory purchase order;
(iii) planning authorities were given greater powers to challenge decisions made by the Ministry;
(iv) local authorities were given powers to acquire land in advance of their requirements;
(v) planning authorities were to purchase land which was deemed to be suffering from "planning blight" (that is planning proposals would have a detrimental effect on property);
(vi) local authorities were given additional powers to acquire land independently of the Ministry.
Planning legislation was consolidated under the terms of the Town and Country Planning Act 1962 which repealed all previous planning law.

National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949: The County Council was empowered to prepare a survey in consultation with the local councils showing all rights of way alleged to exist in the county. Middlesex Planning Department drew up such a map which was approved by the County Council in 1953 and then published. The map was subject to complaints and appeal in the same way as the Development Plan and was also to be reviewed every five years. It was decided to exclude parts of the County deemed to be too developed to be surveyed. The excluded areas were the whole of Acton, Friern Barnet and Wood Green; the greater parts of Hornsey, Southgate and Willesden (no footpaths were found in remaining land). The rest of the County was surveyed according to how much rural land there was, although Enfield, Potters Bar and Wembley were fully surveyed. The Survey was done by the local authorities with help from the Planning Department. A Draft Survey and Map were approved by the County Council in November 1953 and showed more than 200 miles of public rights of way. The Map and Accompanying Statement were published and 166 objections were made to the County Council. Some modifications were made and there was one appeal made to the Minister and four counter objections to the County Council. A Provisional Map was published in June 1957. The Definitive Map was published in February 1958.

Other powers:
(i) District Councils were given powers of dedication which required approval from the County Councils. Powers were given to create new footpaths. Middlesex County Council proposed a continuous Thames riverside walk.
(ii) Powers were given to the Districts to plant trees, bushes, flowers except on land abutting on proposed trunk and county roads. The County Council had a programme of tree planting along sections of Western Avenue, Stanwell New Road and the Great Cambridge Road.
(iii) The Nature Conservancy was obliged to inform the County Council of land in the County which although not of the status of a nature reserve was of special ecological interest. The following notifications were made in Middlesex: Denham Wood, Harefield Moor, Osterley Park, Perivale Wood, Ruislip Reservoir, Staines Moor, Welsh Harp and Whitewebbs Park. The County Council was thereafter obliged to consult with the Nature Conservancy before granting planning permission in the area. In 1959 a Nature Reserve at Ruislip Reservoir was created. The initiative to create nature reserves lay with the lower tier authorities.


Scope and content/abstract:

Maps from the Middlesex County Council Planning Department, 1920-1961, including map of London Airport (Heathrow); map showing allotments in Middlesex; maps of bye-passes, roads and highways; maps of school sites and playing fields; map of land liable for flooding; nature conservancy map; maps of drainage and sewerage; map of the Thames Riverside Walk; maps of the Central, North, South and West Planning Areas and map of parishes, unions, rural and urban sanitary districts.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

This material has been arranged into one section: MCC/PL/MP/01/001-035.

Conditions governing access:

Available for general access

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copyright to these records rests with the Corporation of London.

Finding aids:

Please see online catalogues at:

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Acquired with the records of its parent authority, the Middlesex County Council, and with successor authorities.

Allied Materials

Related material:

Publication note:

For further information on the history of the Middlesex County Council please see Middlesex by Sir Clifford Radcliffe (2 editions, 1939 and 1953), LMA Library reference 97.09 MID; and The County Council of the Administrative County of Middlesex: 76 years of local government, 1 April 1889 to 31 March 1965, by Middlesex County Council (1965), LMA library reference S97.09 MID.

Description Notes

Archivist's note:

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
April to June 2009

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