new towns, planned urban communities in Great Britain, developed by long-term loans from the central government and first authorized by the New Towns Act of 1946. The chief purpose of the act was to reduce congestion in the great cities (or at least prevent its increase) through the creation of attractive, healthful urban units that would provide local employment for their residents. The idea goes back to the book by Ebenezer Howard on "garden cities" (1898). It was given impetus by the example of the "new towns" of Letchworth (1903) and Welwyn Garden City (1919–20), both established with private capital. The act of 1946 empowered the government to designate areas (which might or might not already contain an existing municipality) as new towns, to appoint development corporations, and to approve their plans. New towns in Northern Ireland were designed to have development commissions, established and governed under a separate act (1965). New towns were intended to alleviate the growth problems of Greater London, Manchester, and other urban areas. New towns were also designated to stimulate economic growth (Craigavon), to provide needed housing and community services for industrial areas (Corby, Glenrothes, Cwmbrân), or to decentralize population through the expansion of already large towns (Peterborough, Northampton, and Ipswich). Central Lancashire New Town, designated in 1970, represented yet another variation, the "clustertown."
See Sir Frederic Osborn and A. Whettick, The New Towns (2d rev. ed. 1969); H. Evans, ed., New Towns: The British Experience (1972).