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The Suburban Urbanity of the New Towns: Everyday Life in Cergy-Pontoise and Milton Keynes

Lessons from British and French New Towns: Paradise Lost?

ISBN: 978-1-83909-431-6, eISBN: 978-1-83909-430-9

Publication date: 18 November 2020


This chapter examines the similarities and differences in ways of life and experiences of residents in Milton Keynes and Cergy-Pontoise. Both New Towns resulted from efforts to create a form of urbanity that combines the attractions of urban and suburban life. In the tension between urbanity and suburbanity, many planners emphasised urbanity. To many new residents, their New Town was attractive precisely because of its suburban character. Using empirical material drawn from interviews with middle-class residents, this chapter looks at socio-spatial practices and experiences in the private domain of the home, in neighbourhoods and in public spaces and in the wider urban region. It is suggested that ways of living are conditioned by the structure and design of a city’s spaces, but people do not automatically conform to them. Their practices deviate from the city as planned and designed because residents will add meanings of their own to it. The chapter also reveals that there are differences in ‘suburban urbanity’ between both New Towns. The planning concepts and the daily lives of residents reflect cultural values attributed to suburbanity and urbanity in England and France. If the suburban middle class’s practices in the two cities reveal similar patterns, there are differences as well. In Milton Keynes, the emphasis is more on the private domain, and this causes residents to utilise and experience this city in a strikingly natural fashion. In Cergy-Pontoise, residents have a strong involvement with both the public domain and their own home.




This chapter arises out of a PhD research exploring modernity and suburbanity in the New Towns Almere, Cergy-Pontoise and Milton Keynes. The research project was carried out at the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences, University of Amsterdam. The research was supported by the International New Town Institute.


Nio, I. (2020), "The Suburban Urbanity of the New Towns: Everyday Life in Cergy-Pontoise and Milton Keynes", Fée, D., Colenutt, B. and Schäbitz, S.C. (Ed.) Lessons from British and French New Towns: Paradise Lost?, Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 89-99.



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