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History Betrayed

30.05.24 | Written by Paul Smith

While all the folk at Cratus Group are recovering from UKREiiF and are gearing up for a marathon of General Election coverage, I thought I might slip in a plug for my recently published book. It gives me some cover during the election as my work means that I am politically restricted and must be incredibly careful about what I say regarding 2024 – but allows me to be more immersed in the 1951 vote at the beginning of what would be thirteen years of Conservative rule.

My book “Hartcliffe Betrayed” focuses on the post war reconstruction period on one estate built on the edges of Bristol. Initially it deals with the housing crisis created by the Second World War, the remnants of 1930s slum clearance and the demand to extend city boundaries to accommodate the anticipated growth and the design new communities using the ‘neighbourhood unit’ model. In some ways the past is a foreign country where things are done differently, and in some ways it is a parallel universe where we are doomed to repeat the same mistakes over and over again, with little changes apart from the technology and the fashion. Eighty years ago in 1943, Bristol’s assessment of new housing need was around 30,000 homes, and in 2023 new analysis produced almost exactly the same figure. In the 1950s, the demand for homes led to a (partly disastrous) massive expansion of the building off site constructed homes and today we are looking to MMC (modern methods of construction) to help us accelerate home building.

The post war period witnessed the development of new towns – an answer which is being considered again to help solve the housing crisis. The estate I am focusing on, the one I grew up in and lived over half my life, was planned under a Labour Government, and built under a Conservative one. These days what happened would be described as value engineering. The cost of all social and communal facilities (including roads and bridges as well as community facilities) were considered in terms of their cost per home and how that could be reduced. In the end the ambitious plans for a community which had all the facilities to meet the needs of its population became a dormitory housing estate, a cultural and geographical cul-de-sac. To meet the massive need for new homes, flats were built in the place of houses and towards the end of the development high rise tower blocks replaced plans for homes closer to the ground.

The story of Hartcliffe is the story of many estates built up and down the land and I hope you will take the opportunity to read it and draw your own conclusions about how relevant it is to our contemporary debates. You should be able to pick it up from a library or buy it from

History Betrayed