The Landscape Guide

Raymong Unwin's 1929 Landscape Plan for London

London Landscape Plans: 1829, 1900, 1929, 1943, 1951, 1969, 1976, 1988, 1990, 1992, 2000, 2004, London landscape architecture,

Comment on Unwin's plan, by Tom Turner

This plan was published exactly 100 years after Loudon's plan. Though it uses comparable principles, it seems unlikely that Unwin knew of Loudon's work. The merits of Unwin's work were:

  1. He took the subject to be a key aspect of planning for Greater London

  2. He was methodical in his use of facts and figures

  3. He made proposals for what we would now call development control

  4. His proposals were fully costed

Note that this edited version of Unwin's text lacks some of the tables and some of the illustrations.

Dr. Tech., F.R.I.B.A.

Introduction Open space & development Need for open space Playing fields Other open space Diagrams Aquisition Development control Land values Practicalities Costs


When Mr. Neville Chamberlain as Minister of Health called together the Greater London Regional Planning Committee, he realized the complex character of the task he was asking them to undertake; and in addressing the first meeting he singled out certain aspects of their work for prior reference, to which he specially directed their attention. He asked the Committee to consider in regard to the enormous growth of London "how far and in what direction it is possible to direct that growth," and "how far there would be advantage in trying to concentrate the development in particular spots and areas by the estab1ishment of deliberately planned new towns, satellite towns, as the phrase sometimes goes, where you get sufficient concentration of population to conduce to effective government, to economy in services, and probably also to some reduction in the traffic problem." Following this, he put the further question - " Should London be provided with something which might be called an agricultural belt, as has often been suggested, so that it would form a dividing line between Greater London as it is and the satellites or fresh developments that might take place at a greater distance?"

Experience has proved the soundness of these indications. As a result of the studies already made by the Committee, certain areas of their task have assumed special importance because of their great influence on the general problem; others have assumed special urgency owing to the rapidity with which sporadic building development is rendering any satisfactory solution difficult or impossible.

The making of a plan for a great city region is a somewhat daunting project, because two considerations which claim attention are as clearly true as they seem to be mutually paralyzing. On the one hand the task as a whole is so complex that it can be comprehended only if attention be concentrated on one subject at a time; on the other hand the various aspects of the problem are so interdependent that they cannot safely be studied or handled separately; for the main purpose of the plan is to estab1ish harmonious relations among them. In the case of a city as great as London, these considerations are specially insistent.

In the London region are housed between 8 and 9 millions of people, engaged in a multitude of local, national and world-wide activities. Vast commercial and industria1 operations, and much educational and cultural work are carried on. A complex social organisation has developed, influenced by ancient traditions and estab1ished institutions. The whole has given rise to a network of vested interests affecting all the region of nearly 2,000 square miles over which the influence of the city has spread or is rapidly spreading.

Such a city would have presented a well-nigh insoluble problem to the planner but for the fortunate fact that many of its individual activities have already come under some form of unified control. Developments in regard to them are being studied and arranged by co-ordinating bodies, advised by expert officials. It is enough to mention as examples of such valuable organizations, the Metropolitan Water Board, the Electricity Commission, the London Traffic Advisory Committee, and the National Playing Fields Association. Moreover, the planning problems have been extensively surveyed by the local government authorities, through the studies of the various sub-regional committees covering large sections of the area, and through the local Town Planning Schemes, which have been promoted. (Ilustrations 3 & 4).

The preparation of a Regional Plan is therefore less difficult than would otherwise be the case, because so much is already prepared for co-ordination.

To secure a better distribution of population and industry throughout the Region is seen to constitute the basic problem of the plan. This underlies the solution of nearly all the other problems. Intimately connected with this is the question of preserving, in the area over which London is expanding, an adequate proportion of land kept free from building development, from which to provide playing fields, allotments, open spaces of all kinds, and areas to serve the many other purposes for which land not covered with buildings is required.

The degree to which adequate provision of open space to serve the needs of the vast population already crowded into London has hitherto been neglected, and the extent to which the land Still available is being absorbed by industrial and residential expansion, has revealed this problem of reserving open space as one of special urgency. Month by month the localities where land for these purposes can Still be secured must be looked for further and further beyond the reach of the population of Central London. So large is the number of potential players of games in that population that even if adequate provision of open space and playing field could now be made, the transport facilities required to enable them fully to enjoy those fields would present an almost insoluble traffic problem.

While the preservation of adequate open space is not a matter that can be dealt with by itself, the urgency of the need for action, and the important bearing which the solution of this problem will have on the other areas of the regional plan, seem to justify priority of treatment. Moreover, the need for playing fields and open space is probably recognized and understood more generally than any other aspect of the work of the Committee; and for this reason it seems fitting that this should be the main subject of the first published report.



When designing a plan for a city region, the problem of maintaining a due proportion between developed and open land may be approached in two ways, depending on whether the potential development, or the open land, is regarded as the background of the design. This relation of the areas for building to the tracts of open land constitutes the broader aspect of the question of open space. Hitherto, owing to the nature of Town Planning powers, the problem has been approached mainly from the point of view of planning limited tracts of open space to be reserved on a background of unlimited potential building development. It may, however, be stated in the opposite way, as the planning of ample though selected tracts for building on a background of open land.

In regard to Regional Planning at any rate there can be little doubt that the latter is the correct and only satisfactory method. Regional Planning consists primarily in the laying down of an appropriate design for urban growth. The plan or pattern of development should be laid out on a field or background of open land. The difficulty hitherto has been that no such background is in fact available. All land is assumed to be potential building land; and the reservation of any tracts from use for building development may be sufficient to constitute such land in the words of the Town Planning Acts "property injuriously affected" and to establish claims for compensation. The result is that Town Planners have been constrained to design rather meager patterns of open space on a background of potential building land.

If the contrary method were adopted, and the areas adequate to meet any extent of urban or suburban growth which can be foreseen were planned on a secure background of open land, a true proportion between the two could be maintained. Open space for public enjoyment by the growing population could then be secured upon the free land as and when required. This wider aspect of the matter, and the possibility that additional powers may render the correct method of planning practicable, will be discussed in a. later section. In the meantime it must be recognized that, with the existing powers, the only possible way of restraining sporadic developments from ruining the remaining tracts of land which have special suitability for playing fields or other kinds of open space, is to acquire or preserve those areas in adequate quantity for present and probable future needs. (Illustrations 13 to 16 & 42).


The thorough survey of open spaces and playing fields in London prepared for the Minister of Health by the London County Council, though dealing with an area much smaller than the Greater London Region, has proved a most valuable basis upon which to build up an estimate of the requirements for open spaces and playing fields in that Region.

The boundary of the area dealt with in the survey, while it encloses only about 19 cent. of the Greater London Region, includes about 83 per cent. of the population. The relation of population to total area in it differs therefore considerably from that in the larger Region here, dealt with. This fact must be remembered in considering the results of the Survey and their bearing on the requirements of the whole Region. (Illustration 7).

The need for open space based on population is greatest in the densely occupied cent and diminishes as the boundary of the Region is approached; the opportunities for satisfy that need, on the contrary, are greatest near the boundary and diminish even to vanishing pc when Central London is approached. For convenience therefore the problem has been out in relation to several different areas forming rings or belts for which Statistics are available. In this way it is possible to have some regard to the location of the need, even though the land in satisfaction of that need may generally have to be sought further out than the population to be served.

The different rings or areas referred to are shown on Illustration 7, and the average den of population is indicated for each ring.

To enable an estimate to be made of the total area of playing fields and other open spaces which should be provided to serve the London Region, it is necessary that some standards of need should be adopted. These might be based on population, on area, or on both.


In the Report of the London County Council already referred to, the Standard for playing fields adopted as giving an indication of the requirements was that published by the National Playing Fields Association in their Report for 1927. The justification for the Standard there made may be stated as follows. In every 1,000 of the population there will be 500 persons between ages of 10 and 40 who are potential players of games. Of each 500 of such possible players, it may be taken that at most there will be 150 who for various reasons do not want to play games. That leaves 350 persons per thousand of the population for whom provision for the playing of games is needed. It is further suggested that of these 350 there will be 150 who can afford to pay for their accommodation in privately provided grounds, leaving 200 for whom publicly provided grounds are required.

It is estimated that on the average one acre of ground will serve 50 players of games, and the following resulting standards are put forward


For the 150 on private grounds: 3 acres.
For the 200 on public grounds: 4 acres.
Total space needed 7: acres.

While any such standard can only be an approximation, and the actual need must vary according to many circumstances, this Standard is based on considerable experience, and may be accepted in connection with a large City like London as the best available guide to the total area of ground desirable for playing games.

With a view to showing that this is not an outside estimate, and that a large allowance has been made in it for the limiting conditions prevalent in a great town, it is interesting to compare with it the area already taken up for playing games of all kinds in the first Garden City, at Letchworth. The present population is about 14,000, and the difficulties of obtaining suitable grounds and ready access to them are probably less than in any other town.

Local games and Golf Clubs have already taken up about 160 acres = I 1.4 acres per 1,000
Playing Fields and Playgrounds amount to about 44 acres = 3.1 acres per 1,000
Total 204 acres = 14.5 acres per 1,000

It appears that in this town, where every dwelling has its garden, there is found to be a call for double the space for playing games suggested here as the Standard to be aimed at for Greater London.

It is not so easy to follow the basis of the estimate made by the National Playing Fields’ Association when passing from the need for playing fields to deal with public open space. They suggest, after assessing 3 acres per 1000 of the population as needed for private playing fields, that all local authorities should aim at providing a minimum of 5 acres of public open space per 1,000 of the population. Out of this presumably is to be provided the 4 acres of playing fields per 1000 which they estimate is required for those who need publicly provided grounds, leaving only one acre per 1000 for all other open spaces.

The London County Council Committee, adopting the estimate of 3 acres per thousand of population for private playing fields, followed the National Playing Fields’ Association to the extent of including public playing fields and all other public open spaces in one category. Instead, however, of retaining their standard, based on population, for public open space, they adopted one based on area. A reservation of one-eighth of the land for public open space is suggested as the proportion appropriate for the limited region with which the report deals.

The amount of land required for games of all kinds. depends as directly on population in the case of those who use public grounds, as it does for those who use private grounds. To adopt a different basis in the two cases therefore seems confusing and likely to lead to unsound conclusions. It is Stated in the London County Council Report that, in their existing parks

and open spaces, the area available for playing fields amounts to about one quarter, instead of four-fifths as assumed above; and that in the parks and open spaces of other Local Authorities and of the Crown the proportion is smaller. Standards for public open space of all kinds, based either on 5 acres per 1,000 of the population, or on one-eighth of the area, do not seem to bear any definite relation to a need for public playing fields alone of 4 acres per 1,000.

In estimating open space requirements for the Greater London Region, I recommend that private and public playing fields shall both be calculated on a basis of population, separately from other kinds of open space. Existing public open spaces should therefore only be credited against the total needed for this purpose to the extent that they are available for games; e.g., about 25 per cent. in the case of the London County Council parks. This separation of purpose is important not only for a clear estimate of needs, but also to enable additional areas of land suitable for the several purposes, to be chosen in appropriate proportion; for land adapted for playing fields and that for other open spaces may differ widely in character. Of 64,124 acres of open land available in the London County Council Report area, only 28,027 acres are reported as physically suitable for playing fields.

When calculating the total needs of the Region, it is suggested that the estimate made by the National Playing Fields Association, of 7 acres per thousand of the population for playing fields of all kinds, be accepted as a fairly definite figure to start from.

For the purpose of regional planning there is no necessity, however, to follow the Association in the definite allocation of three-sevenths of the total to privately provided and four-sevenths to public grounds, which no doubt is important from their point of view. Privately provided playing fields are subject to economic pressure, and are being absorbed by building development as effectually as the lands available for public open spaces. The problem of preserving land for playing field users is much the same from the planning point of view whether the playing fields are to be privately or publicly owned; and it is little affected by the terms on which their use may be granted to the players. Consequently the exact proportion in which the 7 acres per thousand may be divided between private and public grounds need not be determined at present. Such apportionment does not represent a true dividing line for financial purposes. Many privately owned grounds are not self-supporting, and it may be expected that contributions towards the cost of playing fields may be forthcoming from more than three-sevenths of the players.


Having adopted a basis on which to estimate the total need for playing fields, whether privately or publicly owned, the needs for other open space must be considered. These requirements vary much in character, and can be related to population or to area with less precision than is possible in the case of playing fields. The space needed for people to walk in, for pleasure and picnic resorts and so forth, might indeed be related to population; but the value of such areas depends very much on their possession of specially attractive character, such as springs from the command of distant prospect or local scenic beauty. The opportunities for a population to enjoy such amenities often depend on their being protected or secured before building development of even a sporadic character approaches them. Consequently it is desirable to forecast the needs of the future as well as to provide for those of the present population. This complex need may perhaps be expressed more appropriately in terms of the area over which population is flowing, rather than in terms of a population whose increase and movement cannot be predicted. There is therefore much to be said in favour of the method adopted in the London County Council Report, of assessing general open space as a proportion of the total area.

In that Report one-eighth of the area, or 12.5 per cent., is taken as an appropriate proportion of the smaller region there dealt with, to provide both public playing fields and other public open spaces. Having adopted a separate Standard on a basis of present population to determine the playing fields for the Greater London Region, a smaller proportion of the area may perhaps

adopted for other open spaces. Considering, however, that the County of London already contains 9.7 per cent. of open space, less than one quarter of which is used for playing purposes; I that the area covered by the London County Council Report contains an average of 8.1 per cent of public open space; considering also the evident inadequacy of existing spaces to serve population of London; it seems that 10 per cent. of the area would not be an extravagant standard to take for the provision of open space of all kinds, in addition to the provision of playing fields for the present population. Any considerable increase in the population may have to seek its playing fields largely in the area which may be reserved in the outer belt as open space.

I suggest, therefore, that in addition to the land needed for playing fields, one-tenth of the area be provisionally taken for the Greater London Region as a rough indication of the amount it is desirable to reserve.

In suggesting the above standards for open space, the possibility of approaching the problem the opposite way, by defining areas for building development in a region of open land, has t been taken into account. Should such method become practicable, a more satisfactory distribution of open and built up lands would become possible; and provision could be made accommodation land, market gardens, and other such areas not included in the term open space as used in relation to the above Standards. (Illustrations 14 & 16).

Seeing that we have many of the figures available separately, not only for the London County area and the Greater London Region, but for intermediate areas also, it will help towards realizing the desirable distribution of open space to take the figures separately for the different areas or rings lettered A to D in Table 1, page 10. Table 2 gives the resulting total needs calculated on two different bases.

Accurate estimates of existing playing fields and open spaces are not yet available except for the area dealt with in the London County Council Report, that is A and B in the above table. As the particulars for this area as a whole are fairly complete, it will be well to deal with it separately. It is assumed that the proportion of playing fields in all the public open spaces may be taken at 25 per cent, as given for the London County Council Parks. The following table gives in square miles the need on the basis of Column 2 in Table No. 2 for the area covered by the London County Council Report, and the estimate of existing public open spaces and areas, not all permanently secured, at present being used for playing fields.

For comparison there may be given for the combined areas A and B only, the amounts of additional land required for public and private playing fields and other open space as arrived at by different methods :—

1. To satisfy the standard of the National Playing Fields Association (5 acres per 1,000 plus 3 acres per 1,000 for private grounds) 40.5 sq. miles

2. To satisfy the standard in the London County Council Report 29.0 square miles

3. To meet the Standard proposed for the Greater London Region 65.14 square miles


To enable the proportions of open space here mentioned, and the distribution of the need in the different Rings of the Region to be more readily appreciated, they have been graphically set out in the following Illustrations 11,12 and 15 with an explanation printed under each


Both in the estimates and diagrams the need for open space has been distributed theoretically in belts according to distance from the centre. As the population is most dense in the centre and becomes more sparse towards the margin of the region, the need for playing fields, which is based on population, shows as greatest in the centre and diminishes outwards. On the other hand the amount of general open space, which is based on area, is smaller in the centre and increases outwards owing to the much greater area of the outer rings. The opportunities for supplying both kinds of need are least in the centre and increase outwards. It is evident, therefore, that while it will be fairly easy to locate the provision in accordance with the distribution of estimated amounts when dealing with general open space, it will be very difficult even to approach this distribution in reference to the playing fields. This suggests the desirability of concentrating the resources available in the inner rings largely on the acquisition of playing fields to meet this great central deficiency, and of relying on the outer areas to secure the main provision of other general open space, where fortunately the cost of acquisition is likely to be less. This general distribution of the open space is illustrated quite theoretically in Illustration Nos. 13 & 15 which show the general principles on which belts or chains of open space might be based, and be related to areas allocated for building development. Existing conditions will of course render anything but a distant approach to such a theoretical distribution impossible. It may serve, however, as a rough indication of what is in principle the kind of distribution to be sought.

While the open space has been to some degree distributed radially, no attempt has been made to allocate it circumferentially, either according to need, or according to the existing supply, both of which vary considerably in different sections of the Region. This aspect of the problem must be further studied before any actual location of open spaces can wisely be undertaken.

In view of the extent of open space here proposed, the following particulars of the relation between the lands which would be left for development and these open spaces may be useful. In the London County Council Report it is estimated that during the past three years of exceptionally rapid development, an average of about four square miles each year has been taken up by building operations in the area dealt with. Allowing for the areas already developed and for the whole of the existing and proposed open spaces set out above, there would be well over 1,000 square miles within the Greater London Region available for further building. This area would allow the present rate of growth to continue undiminished for over 200 years. At only 5 houses to the acre and 4 persons per house, this would represent an additional population of 12,800,000.

The extent of open space still required for the present population of the area covered by the London County Council Report, if a.1l provided within that area (which is not of course contemplated) would occupy two thirds of the land still remaining undeveloped. Such allocation of open space is clearly impracticable; but the impossibility of providing adequate open space for the large and dense population of London within reasonable distance of their dwellings must enforce the urgency both of checking further congestion within the central areas, and of securing a better relation between the land to be developed for building and that to be reserved for open space, throughout the Greater London Region.

The distance from place of work or residence within which the needed open spaces can be provided will prove an important consideration. By eliminating a proportion of the users, and diminishing the opportunities of use for all, increase in distance will greatly reduce the area effectively demanded unless traveling facilities can be proportionately increased. These facilities must therefore be regarded as an important factor in locating open spaces.

The general conclusion indicated seems to be that playing fields should be provided as near the existing built-up areas as possible, while much of the wider extent of general open space may be provided further out. It is of interest to note that in the London County Council Report an estimate of about 44 square miles is given as the area of land suitable for playing fields still available within the Region there dealt with. If it could all be reserved for this purpose, which is unlikely, it would be rather more than enough to provide the playing fields suggested on the above basis as needed for the population of that area.


No pretence is made that the estimates of need for open space put forward in the previous sections are either exact or complete. On the one hand allowance for the future growth of population has not been made; nor have special estimates been worked out for all the various purposes for which land kept free from building is required in close association with urban development. As examples of these there may be mentioned allotments, accommodation land, aerodromes, cemeteries and open areas for the purpose of maintaining the purity of the atmosphere. On the other hand sufficient may not have been deducted from the provision of space desirable for games of all kinds, on account of the distance from the places where the population of central London live and work, at which any extra provision now practicable must mainly be located; and the consequent difficulty and cost of transportation to and from the new playing fields. There is no doubt that this limitation to possible use would for many years leave a considerable margin of the suggested land available to meet the needs of increased population. These and other requirements could also be met for some time out of the reservation of one tenth of the area proposed for general purposes.

The population of the Greater London Region is estimated to be increasing at the rate of about 66,ooo persons per annum. On the basis taken, this represents a new demand each year for 460 acres or three fourths of a square mile of playing fields fully to keep pace with the requirements of the new population. This rate of increase may not continue. There is, however, a considerable movement of population outward from the centre which gives rise to a new effective demand for space for games. Taking into account the factors mentioned which would influence the estimates in different directions, they may be provisionally accepted as indications of the extent of the problem sufficiently accurate for the purpose of discussing methods of acquisition. (Illustrations 7 to 10).

To comply with these standards there would need to be reserved in the plan of Greater London about 63 square miles for playing fields, additional to those now in use, many of which are not permanently secured; and about 143 square miles of land for other general open space, a total of 206 square miles. This provision, while representing undoubtedly a very large project, does not look unreasonable, if it be remembered that the area to be planned is 1,846 square miles, and the population to be satisfied already approaching nine millions. It is clear that such extent of playing fields could and would only come into use very gradually; and that, as regards this and the greater part of the other open space also, the need is not so much to obtain its immediate public use, as to ensure that it shall remain open and unspoiled, and so be available as and when required for various open space purposes. Moreover, a large proportion of the playing fields would be entirely or partially self-supporting, as the provision includes areas needed for private as well as public grounds.

The purchase within the near future of these large areas of land would not have to be undertaken unless this should prove, after investigation, to be the only, or at least the most convenient, method of preserving them from sporadic development. Even in that case the greater part of the areas could remain in use as at present, or be put to uses which would yield an income. If these lands were purchased, in the case of those not needed for immediate public use, only the interest and sinking fund in respect of such part of the purchase price as might represent prospective building value in excess of that based on the revenue from continuing uses would subsequently have to be found. These considerations materially reduce the otherwise formidable difficulty of financing the project.

The scale of the operations necessary to reserve by purchase an adequate area of land merely for playing fields and public open space within the London Region is so great that, apart from other considerations, it is doubtful whether that course would be practicable. Experience shows that land values, depending as they do largely on the prospect of building increment, are liable to sudden and considerable increase on account of comparatively small local purchases. If a public authority through ordinary channels sought to buy land to anything like the extent here contemplated, even if the operations were extended over some years, they would seriously disturb the market and might cause great increase in prices. Other aspects of the Regional plan also are concerned, in regard to which procedure by purchase may be even more difficult than in regard to the reservation of open spaces.

From the planning point of view the problem may be Stated in two ways :- (1) In its broadest aspect, how to allocate tracts of land for building of all kinds where the sanitary and other services can be economically provided; and how at the same time to prevent the costly and destructive sporadic or ribbon development on the remaining areas, keeping them as open land, either permanently, where this is desirable, or until the continued growth of the city should require further tracts to be allocated for development. To effect this purpose by land purchase would obviously not be possible through ordinary processes. (2) In its more limited aspect the problem is, how to acquire the various kinds and amounts of open space required for public use, and to reserve from building areas or belts of land adequate to provide breaks and breathing spaces between the built-up zones, from which additions can be made to the parks, pleasure grounds and playing fields as required from time to time for the growing population.

If a solution could be found for the wider problem (i), and areas could be allocated for building, the remainder continuing open for the time being, there would no longer be the same urgent need specially to reserve the greater part of the 206 square miles here given as required for open space. The greater would contain the less. Tracts could be taken as and when required from the pool of land not allocated for development.

If, however, no solution can be found to the wider problem (i), then indeed the more limited problem (2) becomes of greater urgency. For if no check can be put on the present kind of sporadic development, which frequently spoils ten times the area of land actually used for building, there is indeed a need to preserve the limited areas proposed while it is still possible, sufficiently urgent to justify the attempt to do so by purchase, in default of a better method.



One alternative method of procedure to that of purchase is available in Town Planning Schemes, through which land may be subject to restriction, without disturbing the ownership. In addition to reserving public open space, which must in effect ultimately be purchased, land may be declared as private open space from which building development is excluded. The general definition of a private open space given in the Model Clauses issued by the Ministry of Health is, "land reserved for use as private ground for sports, play, rest or recreation, or as an ornamental garden or pleasure ground." A less stringent restriction may, however, be adopted allowing in addition the use of the land for agriculture or horticulture. This restriction is effective where the ends aimed at are merely to keep the land free from building development and to preserve its general amenity. The restriction, however, entitles the owner to claim compensation for loss of prospective building increment. Where such prospective building value is materially in excess of that based on the permitted uses, such compensation may be heavy, and may even represent the greater part of the purchase price. Naturally in such cases the method is not attractive. It has proved of service chiefly in cases where the owner himself desires to keep the land free from building and will agree to accept the restriction on reasonable terms, or where the prospective building value is little if at all in excess of the value based on present uses. While this is a valuable method in certain cases, and will no doubt be more widely adopted when better understood, it does not meet the cases of greatest difficulty where prospective building value is materially in excess of that based on present revenue from use as open land.


The question of reserving land from building use on any large scale is indeed bound up with that of prospective building increment and the effect which such reservations have on land values. Hitherto, in the purchase of relatively small parcels of land for public parks or playing fields, it has generally been accepted as incidental to private ownership that the individual owner should be compensated by the public authority for the loss of prospective building increment, where the value of that prospect was in excess of the value of the land based on the revenue obtainable from agriculture or similar uses. Reservations of open space of the order of magnitude here contemplated, are, however, quite different in character from such small purchases. In regard to these, as also to other aspects of regional planning, such as the allocation of definite areas for building development, the question of the effect on prospective building value demands further examination.

The usefulness of regional planning is being greatly diminished because of the liability to claims for compensation on account of the prospective value of building rights, which the planning authorities neither wish to acquire nor intend to destroy, but merely to locate differently. It is necessary, therefore, to examine more fully what would be the effect of such reservations of land from building use as must be contemplated if a satisfactory distribution of building is to be secured and an adequate proportion of open space preserved.

The value of land is based on two main considerations ; on the revenue which can be derived from devoting it to uses for which there is a present demand; and on the prospect of increased revenue or price which is likely to be obtainable in the future. Such increase in value may arise owing to any of the following causes (1) increased intensity of urban development, (2) reduced amount of land available for prior use, or (3) local improvements which will add to the relative attractiveness of the land which they affect.

As regards value based on revenue, the amount is readily ascertainable, and is fairly stable. This presents comparatively little difficulty. Where the needs of the case are met by restricting the land from building development and present uses need not be disturbed, this value can be left with the owner and no question of compensation for it need arise. Where land is taken over from present owners for public enjoyment and the revenue is extinguished or transferred from those owners, it is clear that they must be compensated for the loss of income; and there is but small room for difference of view as to the appropriate amount.

It is in connection with the value of the prospect of reaping future increment when building development takes place, that the difficulties arise. This value is by nature speculative. The hoped for building may take place on the land in question, or it may take place elsewhere; it may come within five years, or it may be twenty-five years or more before the turn of any piece of land to be built upon arrives. The prospective building value represents, therefore, an estimate of the sum which may be expected to be realized if and when development takes place, suitably discounted by reason of the chance that other land may secure prior turn, and because of the length of time by which realization is likely to be postponed. Evidently so speculative realized annually by the owners of land as a body may at least be expected not to be reduced. That being the case, any compensation paid for the building prospect on land for this open space, beyond its value for agriculture or other similar purpose, would represent an extra increment or profit realized by the owners as a whole, over and above what they could expect to receive if the lands for open space were not reserved.

ere the whole of the land around a town in one ownership, the owner would, as the best means of realizing the full value of his estate, make just such a plan as that which the Town Planner seeks to prepare for the city region. He would allocate certain areas for building, and would not allow sporadic development to take place elsewhere. He would allot such land for public open spaces and private playing fields as would add to the attractiveness of his town and secure to him the value of continued development. He would realize that such allocation of building and provision of open land, far from diminishing his total increment value, would be the most promising method for increasing it. He would realize also, that provided the lands were chosen with discretion, and that he was compensated for the present revenue on those taken for public use as open spaces, he could afford, without any loss of increment, to allocate as much land for such purposes as the community might need.

This being the position if the land were in the hands of a single owner, it remains equally true of the case where there are many owners, if those owners are regarded collectively. The reservation of land from building and the creation of open spaces, will not diminish, and may even increase the total increment accruing to the whole body of owners.

Unfortunately, however, while this is true of the proprietors as a whole, the several owners may be very differently affected as the result of planning; one may completely lose the prospect of reaping building increment from his land, while others will have their prospect improved by a like amount. While, however, the owners of individual sites may be injured, no general injury to building values is caused for which compensation to a single owner of all the land could be regarded as justifiable. The fact is that none of the building rights or expectations which these claims represent are acquired by the community who pay the compensation. They are all transferred as a free gift of additional value to the owners of the remaining lands which are by the plan allocated to building use. Frequently some additional value due to increased convenience or amenity, is also conferred by the plan. These improved values are not confined to vacant sites, but may be shared by the land already built upon. If compensation for these prospective values is paid by the community, the building increment is paid twice over; first in the form of compensation to the owners of the land on which their expectation is disappointed, and then in the form of additional increment on the other land which is developed in its place.

It can hardly be supposed that landowners wish to be paid twice over for the same building opportunities, yet that is clearly what is happening; and it is not surprising that Town Planning Authorities find it difficult to believe that some method cannot be found for adjusting fairly between the different owners the gains and losses resulting from planning, which would be less injurious to their work, less crude and unreasonable than the present system of double payment.

The effect which it seems clear that the reservation of large areas of land for open spaces must have, may be further illustrated by two diagrams representing a section outside a growing town defined for convenience within two radiating railway lines.

Illustration No. 17 shows the position before the reservation. Certain not improbable assumptions may be made for the purpose of giving the effect in figures. The value of land for agricultural or similar uses may be taken at, per acre: £50. The value of the 5,000 acres having building prospect, varying from £500 per acre near the town to £50 on the outer margin, may be taken to average, per acre: £150. The excess of building value therefore averages, per acre: £100.

The total values are 5,000 acres at £150 = £750,000, less total agricultural value at £50 = £250,000. Excess value of prospect of building increment £500,000.

If on the average 100 acres per annum are covered with buildings, 50 years would be required fully to realize the increment on the whole area.

Illustration No. 18 shows the position after the reservation of open space :- One tenth of the area (500 acres), the average value of which is assumed to be the same as that of the whole, is reserved permanently from building use. If the owners of the reserved land are either paid the value based on revenue, that is £s° per acre, or are left in the enjoyment of that revenue, the excess value of the building prospect cancelled on this area would be 500 acres at £100, equal to £50,000. This is the sum which has to be found to compensate these owners for their loss.

The question is how does the transaction affect the owners of the remaining land. As regards the 4,500 acres, the balance of the land originally enjoying excess building value, the chance of its being selected for building has been improved, and on the ordinary doctrine of chances by something like 10 per cent. Assuming no change in the rate of development, the whole of the area may be expected to be developed in 45 instead of 50 years. In addition to this a further 500 acres of the land formerly outside the area of excess building value will be brought within the zone which may be expected to be required for building within 50 years.

The difference between the amounts of improved value in the two methods of Statement arises because prospective building value includes or overlaps agricultural value. If the building value be increased by a percentage on account of an improved prospect, while the agricultural value remains the same, the improvement in the excess value is increased by the percentage on the agricultural value. It is not here suggested that an increase beyond that given in the second assessment (II.) can generally be looked for as the effect merely of reserving 10 per cent. of land as open space. If, however, there were difficulty in finding an additional 500 acres of land to make up the area expected to be developed within a given time, the reduction in available supply might easily produce the effect given in the first assessment (I.). Moreover the creation of an unusually attractive belt of open space, by increasing the value of living near such a feature, might readily add something extra to the price obtainable for the sites, and would tend to draw residents from other districts and so increase the rate of development. These, however, are separate considerations. The general contention here put forward and intended to be illustrated by the diagrams and figures is that where land is withdrawn from the area available for building, the value of the prospect of building increment on the remaining land is increased by the actual value of the prospect thus extinguished on the withdrawn land.


In view of the conditions above set out, an alternative to the purchase by the community of prospective building values is believed to be practicable, both as regards land from which it is merely desired to exclude building development, and that which it is desired to acquire as public open spaces.

It has been pointed out that were the land in question in one ownership, the owner could, and if wise would, do all that the Regional Planner wishes to accomplish, without sustaining any loss of building increment, and probably with much gain. That being so, the fact that there are many owners instead of one does not seem a sufficient justification for expecting the planning authority to assume responsibility for that part of the owners’ natural function of apportioning their land to proper use which involves loss of expected value, while leaving with the owners all that complementary part which results in gain. In apportioning between the owners and the community functions which may involve both gain and loss, it seems clear that the two should go together. If the owners of land retain the gain, they should meet the loss. If the community is to compensate for the loss, they should equally be secured the complementary gain. This seems to point to some system of pooling their interests with a mutual adjustment of gains and losses between the owners themselves, as the fairest alternative solution to wholesale purchase. It seems obviously unfair to the community that they should be expected to purchase the value of the building prospect on the land on which that value is extinguished, and that the owners, whether the same or others, should benefit again by realizing that building increment on their remaining land. There can indeed be no question as to the fairness and reasonableness of the general proposition, that the case is one for mutual adjustment between the owners. The problem is to find a fair and practicable method for making the adjustment.

In the case of reservation of land from building, there are two factors to start from which are fairly definite. One is the present value based on the revenue to be derived from its use as open land. That value is left with the owner if merely a restriction against building use is imposed; alternatively the ratepayers or planning authority may reasonably be expected to pay that value for any land taken for public use. The other is the measure of the total benefit conferred on other land by the reservation; that measure is the excess of the value of prospective building increment on the reserved land above its value for present use as open land. The value of this prospect, which is removed from the land by the restriction, must be the value of the benefit conferred on other land to which the prospect is transferred. If correctly assessed, the loss will be balanced by the benefit. While this measure of the benefit is definite, its present value in cash and its exact distribution over the remaining land are less so. Both are based on a valuation of future prospect, and are therefore speculative, depending on many conditions.

In being speculative, however, they differ neither in character nor degree from all prospective building increment. No serious difficulty is found in valuing this on behalf of the owners when any question of compensation or purchase is concerned. It is not clear why there should be more difficulty in apportioning over the remaining land the value of the definite amount of transferred building prospect, than in assessing it for compensation on the reserved land. There is no reason to doubt that skilled valuers could in fact apportion such transferred value with a degree of accuracy not less than that with which the original amount could be assessed for compensation. If this is so, there seems to be no sufficient reason why, in place of purchase by the community, the owners who lose a definite prospect of building increment on land reserved from such use in the public interest, should not be compensated by the owners who benefit to a like extent by having that prospect transferred to their land.

It is desirable to make the proposition here put forward quite clear. There is no question of taking owners’ land without proper payment ; nor is there involved any proposal to deprive owners of the increment in value which accrues to land when it is subject to building development. Proposals having such effect would raise entirely separate questions not involved in this discussion. The position is simply this: Town and Regional Planning Authorities, if they are to be able to distribute development so as to maintain a proper relation between building and open space, must be in a position to define the areas on which development may take place, and equally the areas which are to be reserved from such development. Seeing that such reservation does not diminish the total amount of building increment, it should not call for compensation from the ratepayer for loss of increment.

Compensation for the loss of a privilege the extinction of which automatically benefits the remaining holders, occurred in somewhat similar circumstances in connection with the reduction of the number of public houses. In this case the remaining houses contribute according to their value to a fund out of which the compensation is paid to those whose licenses are abolished. Similar arrangements might be made in connection with land from which the prospect of possible building development is excluded, in the general interest of the public, and to promote good town development.

If the course here advocated be accepted in principle, the particular method which could most conveniently be adopted for making the adjustment between owners who gain and those who lose by any redistribution, is a matter as to which it is desirable that the owners and their advisers should be given considerable choice as they are mainly interested. If those who have the duty to award the compensation, have to allocate a like amount in benefit, there is every inducement to be fair to both parties.

While it is claimed that the transference of building value, resulting from planning or from restrictions forming part of a planning scheme, does not justify claims for compensation from the planning authority, but is a matter for adjustment among the owners, it is recognized that the authority on account of their action should assume responsibility to see that such adjustment is made, and must therefore be empowered to approve any voluntary arrangement, and in default of an adequate agreed scheme, to make and enforce a suitable adjustment to be approved by the Minister of Health.

As the gain will generally at least balance the loss, theoretical justice does not seem to call for any contribution from the planning authority. It might be well, however, that they should be authorized to make a contribution to the fund to remove any sense of hardship, to ease the adjustments, and to provide a margin for covering genuine differences of view as to the various amounts. The circumstances will vary very greatly. There may be cases in which all the land affected will be in the hands of a few owners, who might prefer to settle the matter themselves. There will be others involving interests so numerous that the planning authority will have to undertake the adjustment after fully consulting the owners. For this reason it is desirable that elasticity as to method should be maintained.

In the terms of the Town Planning Act and the procedure adopted in connection with i application, the desirable kind of elasticity may be found. The further development of Town Planning Powers appears to offer the natural means for carrying out the proposals here s out. There are, however, alternative methods available; moreover further powers are need in connection with other sections of regional planning ; some of these are discussed Memorandum No. 2 on Arterial Roads and Sporadic Development. Therefore the alternative methods and the additional powers needed can more conveniently be dealt with in a separate Memorandum No. 3.


The amount of open space required for Greater London has been discussed, and the conditions affecting the reservation of such large areas of land have been reviewed. There remain to be considered the very important question of the expenditure which would be involve in the preservation of chains or belts of open spaces round London, adequate to satisfy the needs of the population. Investigation has shown that conditions and land values vary s widely in different sections of the area, that no reliable estimate based on belts at different distance from the centre can be made. If the distribution of the need due to present deficiency should allow the greater part of the areas to be selected in those sections where values are at present relatively low, the average cost would be one figure. If, however, it should require the greater part to be obtained in the sections where values are high, the average cost would be very much greater. Moreover, the cost must depend on the method which may be adopted to preserve the lands from building development, to an even greater extent than on the exact position o distance from the centre.

To attempt therefore to give actual estimates of cost, either for imaginary belts or so reserving the area of land indicated above as required to be earmarked in the Greater London plan, might be both misleading and embarrassing.

It is, however, possible to give some figures based on defined conditions assumed to be within the range of possibility which will at least show the order of expenditure involved ii the provision of belts of open space. The following Table No. 3 gives the areas of three continuous half mile belts of land at different distances from the centre, and the cost of acquisition supposing land could be obtained at the average prices given. No allowance has been mad for any revenues to be derived from the land when acquired. (Illustration 19).

Departing from the simple half mile belts, and dealing with the areas of open space her suggested as required to be reserved within the Region, it may be assumed that the larger total area would allow greater freedom to choose considerable portions of open space in areas of low values; also it may be assumed that more of the land for playing fields would be selected in the inner belts, while the greater part of the other open space would be selected in the outer belts. If a particular apportionment of the areas be taken, and average prices for each be assumed an estimate of cost on these bases can be made.

Grand Total 206 sq. miles Open Space = £9,792,000

y comparison with other examples given, the figures taken in this last estimate will seem to be low; but the greatly increased scale of the proposed purchases must not be overlooked. Even if it were assumed that the whole of the future building development at the present rapid rate of 4 square miles per annum would be concentrated on the areas to be reserved, it would take about 50 years to realize the building values. If the development were distributed on this area pro rata with other land available, a more reasonable assumption, about 50 years would be required. In other words, on the first extravagant assumption, values should be scaled down apparently to the value of building increment deferred on the average 25 years on the second more reasonable assumption to like values deferred 125 years. As a matter of fact only part of the land to be reserved would be in areas likely for early development. Much of the area would purposely be selected where for one reason or another building development would be less likely to occur. Whether land could in fact be purchased for the prices given, it is quite impossible to foresee; but such figures represent a not unreasonable estimate of present value, including prospective building value, assessed with due regard to the vast area proposed to be dealt with, and the consequent long period required on the average to realize those values.

On the basis of the above figures it may be interesting to attempt an apportionment for the same land as between the two values which have been considered :-

(1) that based on the revenues from present uses, and
(2) that representing the excess of prospective building value over the value based on revenue.

This estimate, however inexact the assumptions on which it is based might prove to be, sufficiently represents the position to demonstrate the importance of finding some means of adjus