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Thomas Sharp as a figure in the British planning movement

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The planner, Thomas Sharp, has often been portrayed as an outsider in the wider British town planning movement. In part this reputation reflects his prickly personality and a widespread professional perception in the 1950s and 1960s that he was a quirky individualist at odds with the mainstream of town planning's evolution. This paper argues, however, that in the 1930s and 1940s Sharp was central to British planning history. In part, the marginalisation of Sharp reflects the tendency to write the story of British planning in terms of two visionary movements - the garden city and modernism - with neither of which he felt comfortable. Often dismissed by his critics as a traditionalist, he actually sought physical modernisation that cherished and reproduced in new development, without imitating, what he saw as the best of what already existed. From this perspective and his unique insights on the depressed north east of England, Sharp made seminal contributions to the growing anti-suburban and rural preservationist movements and fed the arguments for a national policy for more balanced regional development. All were central strategic priorities of post-1945 planning policies. His pre-war writings and 1940s plans were also seminal to all townscape analysis.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Planning, Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, UK

Publication date: October 1, 2008

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