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THE BLACK COUNTRY MEMORIES CLUB

The Early History of Stowlawn by Frank Sharman
Part 2 The Development and Construction Committee

Bilston, like most other places, set up a Post-war Reconstruction Committee - though they called it the Development and Construction Committee - to plan the future of Bilston

There was as yet no comprehensive planning law. The post-war reconstruction committees drew up their plans in the hope that means would be devised to implement them. The Palling Acts of 1943 and 1944 went someway to giving them some sort of status but, in the event very few of the wartime plans were implemented – the plans drawn up under the 1947 Act usually started from scratch and very little of the old plans was adopted. (The 1947 TCP Act came into effect in 1948 and then the planning authority was Staffordshire County Council. Any powers Bilston had were delegated to them by the SCC. So it was Staffordshire County Council which drew up the first county development plan. But Bilston remained solely responsible for housing.)

The Chairman of the Development and Construction Committee was J Willis Pearson with Messrs. Barbey, Leighton, Perks, Plant, Abbott, Bilboe, Bold, Miss Chettle, Hilston, Jones, Wellings.

Dr. R. Abbott was also chairman of the Public Health Committee and he seems to have been the councillor who, later, would strongly support the Reilly Greens proposal and who met Otto Neurath. Bilboe was the councillor who went to a lecture by Professor Reilly and decided he ought to be involved. Reilly’s ideas of creating communities might have chimed with Bilboe’s “all them cornfields and ballet in the evening” type of socialism. Councillor Smallshire, not on this committee, attended a lecture given by Neurath in Wolverhampton and may have recommended him to Williams. But the driving force behind what is now sometimes called the “Bilston Venture” was the Town Clerk, A. V. Williams and it may be that it was he who suggested to Bilboe and Smallshire that they go to Reilly and Neurath’s lectures, to see what they thought of their ideas and to get them in his side.

The committee’s plan, including their provision for housing, would have been much influenced by prevailing view, held especially on the political left, that “the equation needed rebalancing”. The idea was that the people who had contributed most to the industrial revolution (the workers) had gained least from it; and the people who had contributed most to the war (the other ranks) had gained least from it. These people were still required “to live in conditions which are not merely depressing, dirty and inconvenient but which actually constitute a serious menace to the health of the parents and the lives of their children” (A V Williams). To balance the equation these people should at least be given decent housing and a chance of living a better material and emotional and spiritual life.

The Story Continues in Part 3 Housing conditions in Bilston

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