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Csepely-Knorr, L., 2020.

The 'Public Relation Value'. Welfare Landscapes of Post-War British Power Stations

Output Type:Conference paper
Presented at:Building Welfare States: New Approaches to Architecture, Community & Planning in Twentieth Century Britain
Venue:University of Warwick
Dates:23/9/2020 - 25/9/2020

In his 1975 article about planning ideology and the Welfare State, Malcolm Harrison identified 'specific social benefits' as 'possible welfare objectives' of town and country planning in the post WW2 period. Some of these social benefits, such as the need for recreation, and the right to leisure facilities were materialised in 'green and open spaces including public parks, recreational topographies, and shared spaces on housing estates', creating what can be called 'Welfare landscapes'. At the same time, Britain saw the creation of a vast number of new landscapes, away from housing estates: the open spaces linked to the delivery of large-scale infrastructural projects - the 'economic backbone' of the post-war Welfare State. This paper will focus on the landscapes of these new infrastructures with a special focus on power stations, commissioned by the Central Electricity Generating Board.

The creation of landscapes around post-war power stations was informed by Section 37 ('Amenity Clause') of the 1957 Electricity Act. It required the minimalisation of the impact of generating and transmission sites on scenery, flora and fauna, and resulted in the appointment of members of the Institute of Landscape Architects on new power station projects. The involvement and advocacy of the landscape profession led to the policy of 'public relation value' in the mid-1960s, that safeguarded the needs of communities by using parts of the CEGB sites for 'specific social benefits'.

Through the analysis of landscapes around key power stations, this paper analyses how the understanding of welfare materialised in post-war British infrastructural projects, how these landscapes fostered social welfare and contributed to building communities and argues that these examples are key in understanding the broader impact of welfare planning on the British landscape.