Colin Buchanan (town planner)

Professor Sir Colin Buchanan (22 August 1907 – 6 December 2001) was a British town planner.[1] He became Britain's most famous planner following the publication of his report Traffic in Towns in 1963,[1] which presented a comprehensive view of the issues surrounding the growth of personal car ownership and urban traffic in the UK.[2]



Buchanan was born in 1907 in Simla, India, a descendant of a long line of Scottish civil engineers, he was educated at Berkhamsted School in Hertfordshire, before studying engineering at Imperial College, London.[3] His first work was on bridges and roads for the Public Works Department in Sudan. Returning to the UK he then worked on regional planning studies, and joined the Town Planning Institute in 1935, before entering the Ministry of Transport where he worked on trunk road schemes and road safety.

After a period in the Royal engineers during World War II, he left as Lieutenant-Colonel to join the new Ministry of Town and Country Planning, overseeing planning enquiries into slum clearance and reconciling traffic, planning, and environmental policies.

Appointed by the Minister of Transport, Ernest Marples, he produced a famous report entitled "Traffic in Towns", setting out proposals on how British towns could cope with growing motor car use.[4] Car numbers in the UK were expected to quadruple over the coming decades. The policy recommendations were widely accepted and acted as a blueprint for urban redevelopment until the end of the century.

He retired from the Ministry in 1963, and held the first Chair of Transport at Imperial College, London, and formed a successful consultancy, Colin Buchanan and Partners, a company which has since developed to become a limited company, employing around 300 staff and currently chaired by his son, Malcolm Buchanan. Between 1973 and 1975 he was head of the newly established School of Advanced Urban Studies at Bristol University.

During the 1960s he was a member of the Roskill commission that reviewed economists' proposals for a third London airport. He totally rejected the 146-page economic analysis proposing Cublington, a site near Aylesbury and Oxford, because of the policy need to protect the open countryside around London: "It is simply unthinkable that an airport and all it implies should be brought here," and recommended Maplin Sands on the opposite side of London. (The third airport was later built at Stansted).

Between 1980 and 1985 he was the President of the Council for the Protection of Rural England.

Buchanan died on 6 December 2001 of bronchopneumonia at his home in Oxford.[1]


  • Buchanan (1958). Mixed Blessing: the Motor in Britain. 
  • Buchanan (1963). Traffic in Towns. 



  1. ^ a b c Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. 2007. .
  2. ^ "Professor Sir Colin Buchanan". Colin Buchanan and Partners Ltd. 
  3. ^ Professor Sir Colin Buchanan at Colin Buchanan Consultancy
  4. ^ "Motoweek". Motor: page 51. date 21 August 1971. 

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