Owen Hatherley on Eastleigh in the face of the 2013 by-election

The day before the Eastleigh by-election, Owen Hatherley—whom we mention in Show 9—posted a Comment is Free piece on Guardian Online entitled “How Labour got lost in Eastleigh’s unplanned sprawl”.

What appears on the surface to be a nondescript, innocuous town is actually a hub for a remarkable sprawl created in spite of past political manoeuvring which attempted to build an über-city on Hampshire’s south coast and would have swallowed Eastleigh whole. Whilst the article exists in the context of the parliamentary constituency of Eastleigh, and reflects on its political persuasions, there’s also a breezy summary of South Hampshire’s planning history, making it a useful companion piece to Show 9’s show notes.

In 1965, the Harold Wilson government commissioned the town planner Colin Buchanan to prepare the South Hampshire Study. Southampton and Portsmouth were growing, with their port and manufacturing industries increasingly important, and beginning to worry London, which now faced a potential rival in the south-east. Left unplanned, this would cause what in Outrage, a travelogue from Southampton to Carlisle, the writer Ian Nairn called “subtopia”, a thoughtless mass of indeterminate detritus strewn unthinkingly across arterial roads. Instead, the planned Solent City would be a consciously modern metropolis built in the gaps between the two historic port cities. Needless to say, locals and local government in the sleepy Hampshire towns that would take most of the expansion were mortified at the prospect of becoming part of some modernist Greater Southampton, and fought the plans until they were abandoned – though many of the ideas in Buchanan’s grid were soon re-used in Milton Keynes, to great success.

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