Governance in the Post‐War City: Historical Reflections on Public–Private Partnerships in the UK


Partnerships between the public and private sectors have been a central feature in the development of British cities since the nineteenth century. Many major civic projects, transport links and even industrial estates have been successfully completed thanks to government, central and local, working with private interests, developers and investors. After the second world war, however, these partnerships became fundamental to the redevelopment of urban Britain. While the state provided legislation, finance and policy directives, local government worked with the private sector to build social housing, new roads and schools. However, the council also relied on private investment to transform tired city centres by building new shopping centres, hotels and office blocks. While contemporary studies recognize the importance of these partnerships in the growth of cities since the 1980s, this article will look at their significance in a broader historical perspective, highlighting the pivotal role they played from the 1950s to the 1970s, and assessing their relevance not simply in terms of the material redevelopment of the built environment but also in what is revealed about urban governance.