Central government and statutory planning under the Town Planning Act 1909
The impending ninetieth anniversary of the first specific town planning legislation in Britain, the Housing, Town Planning, etc. Act 1909, calls for reflection upon that legislation obscured as it has been, notably by the Town and Country Planning Act 1947. It is suggested that one of the main objectives of the 1909 legislation was achieved: the then Liberal government sought to give central government a central role in statutory town planning; this role was expressed in the terms of the 1909 legislation. The 1909 Act allowed the Local Government Board significant powers by incorporating existing law, and adopting regulatory models, from other legislation, so giving central government a wide range of administrative, judicial and legislative powers while omitting to define clear limits to them. A centralist tendency, according primacy to central government, has been an outstanding feature in the allocation of statutory planning powers in Britain since 1909. The advent of devolved government in parts of Britain in 1999 might curb this tendency and should prompt a reconsideration of the fundamental values and mechanisms that have underpinned centralism in British statutory planning.