The New Towns Act 1946 (9 & 10 Geo. VI c. 68) was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom which allowed the government to designate areas as new towns, and passing development control functions to a Development Corporation. Several new towns were created in the years following its passing. The Act was replaced by the New Towns Act 1965 and, later, the New Towns Act 1981.
The 1944 Abercrombie Plan for London proposed eight new towns within 50 miles (80 km) of London for up to 500,000 people from inner London. Similar recommendations were made for other major conurbations including Manchester and Birmingham. The 1945 Attlee Government set up a New Towns Commission to formally consider how best to repair and rebuild urban communities ravaged in World War II.
In 1945 Lord Reith of Stonehaven was appointed as chair of the New Towns Commission. The commission concluded that there was a need to construct new towns using the instrument of development corporations supported by central government. The New Towns Act 1946 cemented this vision in 1946 and New Towns were born.
The 1946 Act was extensively revised in 1965 and 1981.
The Reith Commission recommended that:
- the new town developments should have a population of up to 60,000
- they should be built as far as possible on greenfield sites
- there should be predominantly single family housing at low density
- the homes had to be organised in neighbourhoods around a primary school and nursery schools, a pub and shops selling staple foods
- there should be a balance of housing and jobs 
The act set up New Town Development Corporations which were responsible for the management, design and development of New Towns. These were Public Corporations financed by the Government through Treasury loans. The boards were appointed by Central Government; importantly, they were given planning and compulsory purchase order powers.
Their first task was to draw up development frameworks for a mix of housing, offices, industrial development, transport infrastructure and open space.
New Towns were developed in three generations.
- The first generation set up in the late 1940s concentrated predominantly on housing development on greenbelt sites with little provision for cars; eight were in a ring around London.
- The second generation in the early 1960s included a wider mix of uses and used more innovative architecture.
- The third generation towns were larger; they included Milton Keynes, designated in 1965 and Central Lancashire, the last, which was designated in 1970. These later new towns tended to be designed around car travel.
The following towns were created under the New Towns Act:
- Basildon, Essex*
- Bracknell, Berkshire*
- Central Lancashire (Preston and Leyland), Lancashire
- Corby, Northamptonshire
- Harlow, Essex*
- Hatfield, Hertfordshire*
- Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire*
- Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire*
- Newton Aycliffe, County Durham
- Peterlee, County Durham
- Redditch, Worcestershire
- Runcorn, Cheshire
- Skelmersdale, Lancashire
- Stevenage, Hertfordshire*
- Telford, Shropshire
- Washington, County Durham
- "*" denotes falling outside of London's Metropolitan Green Belt which was enhanced by the Town and Country Planning Act 1947
- Cumbernauld, North Lanarkshire
- East Kilbride, South Lanarkshire
- Glenrothes, Fife
- Irvine, North Ayrshire
- Livingston, West Lothian
- Cwmbran, Monmouthshire
The following towns were expanded on a large scale according to plans brought about from the act:
- Crawley, Sussex, England
- Northampton, Northamptonshire, England
- Peterborough, then in Northamptonshire, moved in 1974 to Cambridgeshire, England
- Warrington, Lancashire, England
Overall about 2 million people are housed in the New Towns in about 500,000 homes.
- "Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Nineteenth Report". www.parliament.uk. Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions. Retrieved 31 January 2016.
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