New Study Great British Plans: Who Made Them and How They Worked

‘Why does everything take so long and why do we find it so difficult to reach strategic conclusions and carry them out?’ asks Lord Heseltine in his foreword to Ian Wray’s exploration of how the British make and execute their greatest plans.

Great British Plans: Who made them and how they worked is no ordinary study of planning methods and implementation. But it is a study of how plans, which delivered nationally significant infrastructure or profoundly shaped the country’s physical environment, were successfully realized.

Opening with a description of the 1940 exploits of Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham, Commander in Chief of the Mediterranean Fleet, his terse signal on their completion: ‘Manoeuvre well executed’, sets the tone for what is to follow.

Nine detailed case studies range from the seventeenth century to the present day, and from landscape architecture and motorways, to building a new city and the ‘knowledge economy’. They reveal extraordinary tales of innovation, improvisation and individualism at the heart of successful plans, all driven by passionate individuals. And here’s the key point: they invariably worked without support (and sometimes with active opposition) from Whitehall.




In just some of his intriguing studies, Ian Wray shows how:

  • Whether in the era of Sir Christopher Wren, Sir Patrick Abercrombie, or the present day, the green spaces and built environment of London have been formed not by government plans, but by individual builders, landowners and objectors.
  • Birkenhead Park, the world’s first public park, and the model for New York’s Central Park, owes its existence to a handful of individuals, not to government action.
  • Thanks to Head of the Secret Intelligence Service, Sir Hugh Sinclair, the code breakers of Bletchley Park, were catered for by a top London chef. Sinclair purchased the buildings for them too, at his own expense, after Whitehall turned down his Bletchley plan. And it seems he was never repaid!
  • The saga of the Channel Tunnel and its rail link is typical of large-scale British infrastructure planning, with high dependency on private initiative and individual political leadership. Victorian railway baron, Sir Alfred Watkin was the first Briton to start building a tunnel under the Channel, but government and civil service were determined to stop him. When it came to the new rail link a century later, backed by Michael Heseltine, another private sector plan (from Arup) won the day.

In the final part of this revelatory and hugely readable book, Wray concludes that the lesson from his case studies is that ‘polycentric governance’ is a staple of the British style; that Britain has some of the densest networks of civic association (or ‘social capital’) in the world; and that working together these can serve the country well in the turbulent and unpredictable future ahead.

Ian Wray is a Visiting Professor in Geography and Planning and Visiting Fellow in the Heseltine Institute for Public Policy and Practice, University of Liverpool. He was Chief Planner, Northwest Development Agency, 2000–2010. He has written for The Architects’ Journal , Management Today and The Guardian and is currently a trustee of the Town and Country Planning Association and of World Heritage UK, and a member of the general assembly of the Royal Town Planning Institute.

The Wisdom of Kids artwork

Theo Paphitis invites Soula to sell her ‘Wisdom of Kids’ books for Children In Need

The Wisdom of Kids book in Ryman stores supports BBC Children in Need

Retail entrepreneur Theo Paphitis has invited a designer Soula Zavacopoulos to sell her ‘Wisdom of Kids’ books in 98 Ryman stores to raise funds for BBC Children in Need.

Ryman nor Soula Zavacopoulos will make a penny from the venture – because all of the profits will go directly to the charity.

A special price of £4.99 (£2 off the normal retail price) has been set for this fundraising campaign and at least £4 from the sale of each book will benefit BBC Children In Need, helping disadvantaged children across the UK.


BBC Pudsey and The Wisdom of Kid

BBC Pudsey and The Wisdom of Kid

The book will be on sale from 11th November in stores and online at with BBC Children in Need benefiting from all 100% of the profits of the book sales during November 2014.

The book is full of funny sayings from children and has a strong celebrity fan base following, including pop star and former X-factor judge Dannii Minogue. Earlier this year, she took photos of the book, posting them on her Instagram page and also recommending the book to her 1.23 million Twitter fans.

“Dannii thought the book was very amusing,” says Soula Zavacopoulos, “It’s full of the hilarious and unexpected things children say.”

Soula Zavacopoulos, who works in both London and Devon, has been collecting humorous comments and quotes from children for the last seven years, and has collated her favourites in The Wisdom of Kids book.

“The book captures children’s innocent view the world and their disarming honesty, making for some of the most amusing insights and (often unintentionally) hilarious remarks that will have you in stitches!”


Theo Paphitis and Soula Zavacopo

Theo Paphitis and Soula Zavacopo

Theo Paphitis likes the book so much he is even quoted on the cover: “Love it, love it, love it!” Even before the book was published, Theo Paphitis had recognised the potential of The Wisdom of Kids when in 2011 he selected Soula Zavacopoulos as winner of his “Small Business Sunday” award that he runs each Sunday on Twitter.

At the time, The Wisdom of Kids existed solely as a range of greeting cards that Soula had created and published herself through her design company, The London Studio.

Soula sold cards direct to retailers and having supplied stores including Selfridges, Harrods, Fenwick, Bentalls, Paperchase and Harvey Nichols, she impressed Theo with her innovative products, proven to be excellent sellers.

In the three years since winning Theo Paphitis’ SBS award, Soula has won several other awards including the Smarta100, with her company, The London Studio, being named one of the Top 20 Small Businesses in the UK today.

Soula has been busy developing The Wisdom of Kids range and expanding it into gifting, including mugs, coasters, calendars and the gift book. Last month Soula launched The Wisdom of Kids at the top licensing show, Brand Licensing Europe at Olympia, London, and has already signed licensing deals with three major licensees, with new product launches planned from mid 2015 onwards.

“It’s an exciting time for The Wisdom of Kids” says Soula, “I’m thrilled at how fast it’s popularity is growing now and I’m delighted to be able to use it to help raise money for BBC Children in Need this month”.


The Wisdom of Kids artwork

The Wisdom of Kids artwork


Money raised for BBC Children in Need can help children in lots of different ways, for example:

• £1 could prevent a child from going hungry at breakfast time for a week
• £2.50 could help supply a special pack for premature babies with life-limiting conditions
• £5 means a 5 year old boy in hospital and anxious about his treatment can giggle and laugh at a magical entertainer
• £7 gives a child in a refuge who has witnessed frightening domestic abuse a session of personal support to work through their feelings
• £8 gives a young carer whose daily duties include lifting and bathing their Mum a break each week at a children’s club where they play freely with their friends

To help raise vital funds please buy The Wisdom of Kids book from Ryman stores or online from where 100% of profits from sales of the book during November will benefit BBC Children in Need. That means at least £4 from the sale of each book will go to the charity and help disadvantaged children in the UK.