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A SPUR to action?: The Society for the Promotion of Urban Renewal, ‘anti-scatter’ and the crisis of city reconstruction, 1957–1963

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Mounting concern about the slow progress of the drive to reconstruct Britain's cities in the late 1940s and 1950s led to a sustained debate about strategies and priorities. This paper offers insight into the climate of ideas of a key period in the recent past by considering the work of the Society for the Promotion of Urban Renewal (SPUR). A pressure group that campaigned for resuscitation of urban reconstruction under the banner of ‘urban renewal’, SPUR staged exhibitions and published manifestoes that reasserted core urban values, reconfigured decentralization on an intraurban basis, proposed multi-level circulation systems and, latterly, sought to redress the balance of rehabilitation and conservation strategies against comprehensive redevelopment. After a contextual introduction, the opening section of this paper clarifies two key concepts – ‘reconstruction’ and ‘renewal’ – that shaped thinking about the replanning of British cities in the early postwar period. The ensuing sections analyse the origins and founding ideals of SPUR and examine its key projects and manifestoes. The conclusion reflects on consensus and plurality in the group's work in the context of wider currents of thought about urban renewal.

Keywords: Annual Reports; Society for the Promotion of Urban Renewal; anti-scatter; consensus; exhibitions; plurality; reconstruction; urban renewal; urbanity

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Social Sciences,Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, UK

Publication date: April 1, 2012

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