Gem Towns

In 1964 the [Council for British Archaeology](http://archaeologyuk.org) released a response to the Buchanan report, ‘[Traffic in Towns](http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1963/nov/27/traffic-in-towns-...)’ (1963). Buchanan emphasised the need for balance in traffic management and urban development as car ownership placed increased pressure on town centres. This in conjunction with the devastation and loss of heritage assets in Worcester following the development of the town centre at this time led to a response from the CBA in the form of a plea, for the inclusion of historic environment preservation provisions in all development plans.

The Gem Town designation, moved away from the previous approach of ‘piecemeal listed-building protection’ in town centres, which had seen many assets lost to town centre development and road expansion. The CBA’s proposal sought particular focus on the ‘historic quality’ of the town environment through creation of Heritage Plans highlighting the value of the area.

**The key features of the survey Heritage Plan**:
• Layout- particularly historic street plans
• Historic buildings
• Urban quality
• Other special characteristics

It was envisaged that the Heritage Plan would be combined with the Transportation Plan (Buchanan, 1963), to form an obligatory process in any development plan that required specific provision for any features emphasised in the survey. Responsibility for the creation of this plan was given to the area local authority with guidance and support from the CBA.

Through the combination of road planning and heritage preservation it was hoped that not only historic buildings would be saved but that the ‘skeleton’ of historic towns would be protected by ensuring the street plan was considered in any planning or redevelopment proposals.

A list of 324 Historic Towns was drawn up, including locations across the UK using the survey criteria. Of these 51 were considered to be particularly splendid and precious and were subsequently designated as Gem Towns.

*The map below shows the distribution of ‘Gem Towns’ nation-wide*

View Gem Towns in a larger map

**List of Gem Towns**:
Abingdon
Cambridge
Wisbech
Cockermouth
Whitehaven
Totnes
Blandford
Barnard Castle
Colchester
Thaxted
Chipping Campden
Tewkesbury
Hereford
Sandwich
Lincoln
Stamford
King's Lyn
Norwich
Wynomondham
Newcastle on Tyne
Newark-on-Trent
Burford
Oxford
Bridgnorth
Ludlow
Bath
Wells
Hadleigh
Lavenham
Lewes
Rye
Warwick
Bradford-on-Avon
Marlborough
Salisbury
Pershore
Beverley
Richmond
Scarborough
York
Conway
Monmouth
Tenby
Aberdeen
Inveraray
Haddington
Culross
Edinburgh and Leith
Cromarty
Kelso
Stirling