The Story of Biggin Hill: a plotlands development and post-war exurb in Greater London

Post War Developments

Following the war, town planning legislation was the dominant factor in suburban development. The point at which building had ceased on the outbreak of war became the permanent edge as the Green Belt appeared, putting an end to the thirties pattern of ribbon and sprawl development.

Although officially part of the green belt, Biggin Hill was already built up, albeit in a different style and less densely than most of its neighbours, the RAF base adding to its distinctiveness.

50 years on, the mostly cheaply built plotlands bungalows, many of which had been permanently occupied from the outbreak of war onwards, were at the end of their useful lives and owners were keen to replace them with more modern and robust dwellings. Developers bought many plots with the specific aim of rebuilding. From 1951 there was a huge influx of new people, mainly in the younger age groups, keen like previous generations to “move to the country”. From 1958 this influx became a flood.

It became clear that the town needed a plan and in 1964, just before Biggin Hill’s incorporation into Greater London, Kent County Council produced the “Biggin Hill Town Map” (revised by the GLC in 1971) which gave details of how the town would be developed in the future. The rough tracks, worn out by years of overuse were to be resurfaced becoming proper roads, allowing the first bus service to the valley community to be introduced in the 1960s. The two main access roads into the valley, Polesteeple and Stock Hills, were realigned and resurfaced, later becoming the access roads for buses. Developments on unsurfaced roads were strongly discouraged. A few such roads remain today, but these are mainly at the wishes of residents who fear the increase in through traffic that would result from the making up.

The small shops that lined the main road before the war have been supplemented by parades in the valley and a large Safeways supermarket that attracts shoppers from miles around. Charles Darwin Secondary School opened in 1974, meaning children from the age of eleven no longer have to travel to Hayes.

Industry was encouraged too, in order to try to give more employment to the resident population and reduce the need to travel out of this isolated community. This became mainly concentrated around the airfield.

The period 1961 to 1981 resulted in a 161%an increase in housing, the plan allowing infill development which replaced the low density plotlands bungalows with higher density modern estates. Developed at first mainly by local firms such as the prolific B.W. Brazier, who first built Valley View, then Springholm and Bankside Closes and surrounds and later, Filey, Bridlington and Flamborough Closes. Soon larger national developers were joining in too. The long established New Ideal Homesteads, known mainly for their pre war developments, built Magnolia Drive in around 1970, and Bovis were responsible for Rushdene Walk around the same time. Almost all were private, owner occupied buildings. There has never been a tradition of public or private rented housing in the town. By the end of this period, 52% of the population were recent arrivals.