Town planning in Britain has proceeded, in the phrase of Sir Patrick Abercrombie, from the particular to the general. During the nineteenth century, as the result of private enterprise, much pioneer work was done in estate and village planning. Well-known villages attached to factories, the co-partnership tenants' estates, and the great achievement of Hampstead Garden Suburb, all aimed at the reform of the domestic environment. The need to extend those principles to the town led to the first Town Planning Act of 1909. In its somewhat grudging treatment of old built-up areas this act showed a strong bias towards suburban if not estate planning, and in due course it was found inadequate. The next Act of 1919 led to the treatment of towns in their relationship to neighbouring towns and to the wider setting of the town in the countryside. Thus, regional planning was almost unconsciously initiated, and there are now more than a hundred town-planning regions covering all the most populous areas in a belt from the Solway Firth to the Straits of Dover, as well as elsewhere in the country. The disadvantages of such regions have already been indicated in general terms. Here it may be added that they frequently do not coincide with the natural geographical region, and this, in turn, does not coincide with existing administrative boundaries.
The problem of the town-planning region is well illustrated by the case of Manchester, the administrative area of which stretches for twelve miles from north to south but only three and a half miles from east to west. Contiguous to it are closely built-up areas like Salford, Sale and Stretford, and the small towns of north Cheshire, that are its best residential areas. About two million people live within a radius of ten miles and one million within a radius of one mile of the Town Hall. It is the capital for a densely populated industrial area with an aggregate population of over four millions.