Hinckley Historian Magazine

Hinckley Historian Magazine No.33 - Future Plans in Forty-Four Housing and Town Planning

Hinckley Urban District Counci1 - Future Plans in Forty-Four Housing and Town Planning - First Report: September 1944

Proposed development of Hollycroft Park
Proposed development of Hollycroft Park

In 1994 it seems appropriate to compare the planning intentions of those days with the present town some fifty years later. The report was produced by a council committee shortly after the allies had regained a foothold in France and were preparing to launch a final assault on Germany to be followed by reconstruction once peace had been declared. In 1944 the total area which was the responsibility of the Urban District Council was some 11,771 acres and basically consisted of 'Hinckley town as the main centre with the adjoining, yet detached, industrial villages and townships of Earl Shilton, Harwell and Burbage, and the rural village of Stoke Golding.'

The report regretted 'the undesirable ribbon development, particularly on Coventry Road, Ashby Road, Hinckley and Hinckley Road, Barwell', The hope was that new development would overcome such problems. An ultimate size within 50 years of 60,000 for the area of the Urban District Council was envisaged, with 44,000 in Hinckley, 8,000 in Earl Shilton, 7,000 in Barwell and "1,000 in Stoke Golding. This represented an increase of 66% on the present (1944) population of 36,000.

The idea of creating neighbourhood units that are 'big enough to bring people together... so that they may be able to group themselves into a community with a centre that should not be more than fifteen minutes’ walk' was emphasised in the report. 'This community centre should have provision for Branch Library and Assembly Hall, and should be nearby Churches, Shops, Clinics, Cinema and possibly restaurant and cafe and any administrative offices required.’ Clearly the impact of the motor car and of television would have a particular effect on these plans.

The report added 'that a population of 8,000 was the maximum to which such a centre should be planned... The best way to achieve this aim appears to be to encourage development of all the land between Hinckley and Burbage and to prevent sporadic development between Hinckley and Barwell’. Land between Hinckley and Barwell was proposed as a Green Belt. Earl Shilton and Harwell's development could either be 'planned between the two townships forming a new centre around Belle Vue’ or each could encourage separate unit development around their own existing centres. Stoke Golding was ‘to retain its present rural features’.

The report stressed 'The whole planning scheme is therefore based on the conception that a spirit of companionship or human fellowship must be given every opportunity so that the individuality of the citizen is moulded into the community and each individual is made to realise they have responsibility to their neighbour. These sentiments appear just as appropriate some fifty years later.

The suggested Civic Centre at Hinckley
The suggested Civic Centre at Hinckley

Major housing development was proposed on the 500 acres of land between Burbage and Hinckley (Sketchley and Three Pots) and in Earl Shilton on the 60 acres between Oxford Street, Vicarage Street and Mill Lane. Finally in Barwell the 50 acres of land around Red Hall and the Poors Plats was proposed for zoning for residential development. The area of Hollycroft and the area developed later for the Jelson Estate is notable by its absence. It was estimated that in Hinckley and Burbage the total number of housing units would be nearly doubled by an addition of nearly 5,500 units to the existing 7,500 houses.

On the question of industrial development, the areas in central Hinckley and the Gas Works and Sketchley Dye Works were identified. The report stated ‘it is further suggested to zone about 25 acres of land adjoining the railway in the Outwoods area for any heavy industry which may in the future desire to start here.’ Recent developments in Hinckley near the Harrowbrook and the Northern Perimeter Road were not considered. The industrial section of the report ended'. It is not considered to be desirable to provide for any new industrial development in either Burbage or Stoke Golding beyond the extension of the existing industrial establishments1.

In terms of open spaces it was suggested that a Sports Arena with a proper track be constructed at the bottom of Hollycroft Park.

Comment on traffic was an interesting element in the report before the age of the M69. The report stated 'Except to some extent in Castle Street/ it cannot be said that any traffic congestion occurs on any of the roads in the district1. Ring roads were however considered a possibility around the northern side of the district by-passing Hinckley, Barwell and Earl Shilton and taking the traffic of the A47 'known as the Birmingham and Great Yarmouth Trunk Road1. 'The idea of1 a dual carriageway 'from near the Gas Works in Coventry Road through to the Borough' was also proposed. Such were the traffic problems envisaged in 1944!

The new Civic Centre 'visualised... would be a three storey edifice with the main vista to Castle Street, but having the Council Chamber and main rooms on the quiet side facing Argents Mead... Assembly Rooms should be sited at the top of Hollycroft Park at the junction of Shakespeare Drive and St. George's Avenue. A kind of De Montfort Hall which would be found most useful for indoor functions when too wet to take place in the park'. The Leisure Centre was not part of the consideration but a Sports Stadium was suggested.

The final section of the report made mention of limitations under Town Planning Law and referred to the new Planning Officer/ Mr. Hadfield. In conclusion the report stated that the committee 'have not allowed themselves to be carried away into Utopia but have produced a sound and above all practical scheme which/ if carried out/ will make this area one of which every inhabitant might well feel proud.'

In many ways/ given the knowledge and facilities available at that time/ the Editor concurs with that final statement fifty years later.

The Editor

Acknowledgements to Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council and my special thanks to Mary Musson who allowed me to borrow the Report which she first obtained in 1944.

Author: Hugh Beavin

Written for: Hinckley Historian Magazine