The Doncaster Regional Planning Scheme – 1922

Up until quite recently the country comprised within this Regional Planning Scheme was but remotely connected with any ideas of Industrial Development (with the exception of the towns of Mexborough and Conisborough). The exposed coalfield of Yorkshire, Derbyshire, and Nottinghamshire, bearing on its surface such typical industrial towns as Leeds, Wakefield, Barnsley, and Sheffield, appeared to come to an abrupt conclusion on a line parallel with these towns and almost due north and south, some three or four miles west of Doncaster. Here, the coal measures have been overlaid with what has been described as ‘a discordant sheet of magnesian limestone or Permian’; and an agricultural countryside reposed peacefully on this intervening layer and on the Triassic Sandstones and Marls, which, also superimposed and al tilted to an easterly fall, still further concealed the coalfield, a line east of the Trent, nevertheless a popular notion still existed that  Doncaster was just beyond the limit where coal could be worked profitably. The late date to which this general misconception of the eastern extension of the Yorkshire Coalfield persisted was probably owing to a misreading of the Geological Ordinance Survey, which, quite rightly, showed the manifest coal measures as ceasing at the point where they dipped under the Permian sheet already alluded to. The boring made at Haxey in 1893, two miles west of the Trent (and just beyond the eastern boundary of the region) proved not only that the coal measures existed underneath, but that there were valuable seams at a workable depth at a point several miles beyond the previous most easterly successful boring: and it was also observed that whereas the general trend of the surface of the coal measures followed the eastern dip of the Permian sheet and other strata, the actual Barnsley bed of coal, instead of dipping too, lay absolutely flat.

In spite of these forecasts, which inevitably portended a different future, this region continued on the surface and in the popular mind and smiling agricultural plain, containing many noble parks and mansions: its principal town, Doncaster, famed for its racecourse and beautiful surroundings, and for one of those small local products which carry the name of a place to the ends of the earth, its Butterscotch; and its villages, with their red pan-tile roofs, reminiscent of the Dutch men who drained the marshes between the Don, the Trent, and the Ouse. If one crossed the region by the Great North Road it was hardly possible to detect the presence of the working Yorkshire coalfield at all, though passing quite close to it at Pontefract. If approached from Sheffield, on the south-west, one remarked how the grimy Derbyshire Millstone-grit gave way to the clean grey limestone as one approached Conisborough, and this appeared an outward symbol of radical change from the industrial West Riding to the rural plains that extended to the Lincolnshire Wolds.

But these appearances are frequently deceptive: beneath this farm land continued the famous Barnsley bed of coal – unaffected by its covering of later rocks; requiring, it is true, deep sinking’s and so a large capital outlay, but ready to reward richly whoever was adventurous enough to open up a new coalfield and in consequence turn a sleepy agricultural community into one of the busiest industrial districts of Britain.

The first move in this direction was made by the sinking of the Bentley Pit, begun in 1905. The difficulties and expense of this operation were enhanced by the deep waterlogged sand that overlays the magnesian limestone throughout the greater part of the area surrounding Doncaster, and which hitherto had raised doubts as to the economic possibilities of pit-sinking. The district, therefore, owes a great deal to the resources and enterprise of Messrs. Barber Walker & Co. of Nottingham, in tackling this dangerous and costly operation.

No sooner had it been proved that sinking operations could be carried out and valuable coal seams reached, than the whole district came alive with colliery enterprise.

The town of Doncaster itself, however, had begun to move sometime before, and quite apart from colliery undertakings. The coming of the railway in 1849 and the removal of the Great Northern Engineering Works to Doncaster was the first change towards an industrial town; and no doubt the foresight of the leading townsmen of that date, the late Sir Edmund Beckett, to whom the thanks of the town are due, was the direct cause of this; and to him the first birth of its new prosperity may be attributed. Doncaster, which previously had been the centre and junction for the Mail Coaches and traffic using the Broad Highway of the Great North Road, changed from this time onward and grew to the great Railway Junction that it is today. With its seven main lines of railways giving access North, South, East, and West, by probably the finest service of trunk lines to be found anywhere in the country, the region is connected with every part of England, and has access to the whole of the manufacturing centres of Yorkshire and Lancashire.

The centre and metropolis of this region is indeed now upstart town like Middlesbrough. Its past importance is visibly proved by the size and splendour of its parish church (though the present structure was a re-building by Sir Gilbert Scott after the disastrous fire of 1853).

Doncaster, of course, dates from the time of the Romans (we now know that it pre-dates the Roman’s by a great many years), and is of great historical interest. It has played its part in the evolution of the North of England, and was chiefly famous in the old days for the sagacity and foresight of its burgesses and the strength of their own right arm. The town from time immemorial has governed itself by ancient charters on broad democratic principles, and has not, like so many of our old cities, been under the sway of an overlord. The Corporation, being the Lords of the Manor of Doncaster and surrounding manors, were wealthy landowners controlling and administrating large revenues. The results of this can be seen in the streets of Doncaster, which are, for a town of its great age, amply laid out, with the survival of the Roman Cross in its midst. The one thing, however, to be regretted is the absence of old buildings; its castle, town walls, and historic monuments were swept away by the unreasoning progressive spirit of its townsmen, before a true appreciation of these links with the past existed.

Doncaster, which was growing gradually as a market town and railway centre, naturally reacted to the colliery workings; and since the starting of the Bentley Pit its whole character has been subtly but surely changed from a large old-fashioned and prosperous market town, which in 1865 had a population of 18,000, to the avowed metropolis of a new industrial district.

The following are the dates of the successive opening of Coal Pits in this area. Taken in conjunction with the establishment of the Railway Engineering Works in 1849 and Messrs. Pilkington’s Glass Works, they give a sort of chart of progress towards industrialisation:

Industry Date when at work
Railway Engineering Works 1849
Denaby Pit 1864
Cadeby Pit 1889
Brodsworth Pit 1907
Bentley Pit 1908
Maltby Pit 1910
Yorkshire Main Pit, Edlington 1911
Bullcroft Pit 1911
Askern Pit 1912
Barnburgh Pit 1914
Rossington Pit 1915
Harworth Pit Now sinking
Armthorpe Pit Now sinking
Messrs. Pilkington’s glassworks 1921

A conference of local authorities in the area of the coalfield surrounding Doncaster, convened by the Ministry of Health on the subject of industrial development in the South Yorkshire coalfields, was held in the Mansion House, Doncaster, on the 16th January, 1920, at which it was resolved that it was desirable that a Regional Planning Scheme should be prepared for the whole of the area comprising the coalfields surrounding Doncaster, and the following authorities decided to join the scheme:

  • Doncaster Corporation
  • Doncaster Rural District Council
  • Blyth and Cuckney Rural District Council
  • Adwick-le-street Urban District Council
  • Bentley with Arksey Urban District Council
  • Mexborough Urban District Council
  • Tickhill Urban District Council

The Conisborough Urban District was formed out of the Doncaster Rural District on the 1st April, 1921, and thereupon became a constituent Authority.

The first meeting of the Joint Town Planning Committee was held on the 31st May, 1920, when Professor Patrick Abercrombie, M.A., A.R.I.B.A., of the Liverpool University and Mr. T.H. Johnson, architect and surveyor, Doncaster were instructed to prepare an outline plan and report for the area.

The following are the representatives on the Joint Committee:

Authority Representative Clerk Surveyor
Doncaster Corporation F. W. CockingC. Theobald

E. Wilburn


W.Bagshaw F. O Kirby
Doncaster R.D.C. W.AppleyardCanon T.Forster-Rolfe

T. L. Soar

M. J. Bramall

H. M. Marshall W. R. Crabtree
Blyth and Cuckney R.D.C. W. Guest A. H. Styring A. E. Hewitt
Adwick-le-Street U.D.C. W. Bamford F. Allen G. Gledhill
Bentley with Arksey U.D.C. D. McGregor F. Allen P. E. Woodhall
Conisborough U.D.C. H. C. Harrison H. M. Marshall H. Thirlwall
Mexborough U.D.C. J. Wood J. W. Hattersley G. F. Carter
Tickhill U.D.C. H. G. Atkinson-Clarke J. Walker J. Haslam

Alderman F. W. Cocking was appointed Chairman, and the Rev. Canon T. Forster-Rolfe, Vice Chairman of the Joint Committee.

The Hon. Secretary to the Joint Committee is Reginald Jones, on behalf of the Clerk of the County Council of the West Riding of Yorkshire, County Hall, Wakefield.

The report was approved by the Joint Committee at a meeting held on the 14th July, 1922.

Summary of Principal Recommendations


 1.       The Joint Town Planning Committee, in presenting this report together with the plans illustrating it, recommend the several constituent authorities to frame town planning schemes on the basis of the report, with such further detail as each local authority thinks fit, so that the recommendations may be realised gradually as development takes place, and the whole region may grow in harmony and to mutual advantage.

2.       The committee appreciate that the realisation of some of their recommendations may involve adjustments as between the constituent authorities, and possibly negotiations on behalf of them all with outside bodies; and the committee think it desirable that they should remain in being as a means of continuing and making effective and cordial co-operation which has hitherto been so manifest in their deliberations.

3.       The committee draw attention to the fact that provisions inserted in a town planning scheme which prescribe the space about buildings or limit the number of buildings to be erected, or prescribe the height or character (zoning) of buildings, and which the Minister of Health considers reasonable, are not matters for compensation; and therefore, in approving recommendations dealing with such provisions, they have taken care that the proposals should be such that they may be expected to be to the general advantage of all parties concerned.

4.       The committee consider that all the recommendations, except numbers 5, 12, 13, 15, and 16, can be put in to effect by means of town planning schemes; and the method suggested for meeting the possible exceptions is dealt with in the particular recommendations.

5.       Subsidence – Considerations of economy, health, and food production make it imperative that steps should be taken to prevent the land surface becoming submerged as subsidence takes place owing to the abstraction of coal from underneath. Consequently, a Regional Drainage Board should be established forthwith, inifying the existing Drainage Authorities and covering the land not already under the jurisdiction of any such authority; the regional board to be responsible for keeping the surface free from flooding, and in addition to existing powers to be financed by a levy of a small charge on each ton of coal raised.

6.       Each local authority should not deal separately with sewage disposal, but joint schemes should be devised when the undue multiplication of outfall works can thereby be avoided.

7.       Zoning – The general aim should be the development of a series of some twelve or more self-contained and well-defined towns within the orbit of Doncaster, which should develop as the capital town of the region. Broadly speaking, the intervals should be filled by agricultural land, small holdings, allotments, and playing fields. The low lying land should be allocated to industry. The low lying land below the 25-30 feet contour should be reserved for agriculture or industry, and no new dwelling-houses should be built on it except what are absolutely essential for local agricultural purposes. The land above the 25-30 feet contour  can be used for either housing, commerce, or clean industry (neutral zone), but not promiscuously, well balanced communities being planned as the type of suitable local development becomes apparent.

8.       Heights of Buildings – Buildings in all but the industrial zones should be limited in height to a maximum of 70 feet, and no part of any building should project above a line drawn from the centre of the street in front at an angle of 56 degrees with the horizontal

9.       Preservation of Features of Beauty – At Sprotbrough, the park, village, and gorge of the Don should be preserved in their present condition as a regional asset. Conisborough Castle and surroundings should also be preserved, and as far as possible the villages of Hooton Pagnell, Campsall, Burghwallis, Hickleton, High Melton, and Marr. Also, when any road widening takes place, great care should be exercised to preserve any fine avenue or row of trees. In planting fresh avenues, care should be taken to select the type of tree best suited to local conditions.

10.   Roads – A series of important road proposals and building lines, required for the efficient development of the area are to be set out. It is not suggested that these should be put in hand all at once, nor that when commenced the complete cross-section should be constructed in the first instance; but it is most important that the routes should at once be earmarked, so that the way may be open whenever a favourable opportunity arises for any part of the work to be put in hand.

11.   Railways – The suitable provision should be made for railway access, to develop the land zoned for industry on the Wheatley side of the Great Central Railway, and any new bridges should, wherever possible, be designed to carry both road and rail traffic.

12.   The Midland, London and North-Western, and Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Companies should be asked to improve their passenger services within the region, the last named particularly in regard to the service to Askern.

13.   The attention of the railway companies should be drawn to the need for additional stations at Bentley, Sprotbrough, Bessacarr, and Harworth, and of the Great Northern Railway to the desirability of putting in hand the projected railway between Bawtry and Tickhill.

14.   The sites of new stations should be treated as a town planning question, and roads focused onto a ‘place’ in front of each of them.

15.   Due to dangerous positions, Bridges should be built instead of level-crossings as soon as circumstances permit at the following places: The Askern Crossing, The Askern Station Crossing (a footbridge is required here at once), The Rossington Crossing (footbridge badly needed), Arksey Crossing (footbridge urgently needed), Watch House Lane Crossing at Bentley, Norton Crossing adjoining the station, Stainforth Road Crossing at Barnby Dun, Finningley Station and Finningly road crossings.

As of 2012 the above places, if in existence, still have no bridge to replace the level crossing.

16.   Waterways – The waterways require urgent attention; three courses are outlined including a possible Ship Canal from Goole to Doncaster.

17.   Civic Centres – Provision should be made in Doncaster for a Civic Centre worthy of the important region of which the town is the natural capital.

18.   Filling up of low-lying land – Pit heaps should not be created or allowed to remain. All spoil should be spread to fill up areas of low-lying ground suitable for ultimate industrial use. e.g. the small area , liable to flood, adjoining Mexborough on the Melton side, and also that near the river between Conisborough and Doncaster.

19.   Development of the villages in the area.

20.   Park Provision for the region – Open spaces should be provided on a systematic basis, due regard being given to their distribution throughout the region in relation to centre’s of population and to where suitable land is available.

One response to “The Doncaster Regional Planning Scheme – 1922

  1. And there is still no reail link Bawtry to Tickhill, 90 years later

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