Re: what is it about post WW2 planned cities that make them so lifeless and forgettable? @raff
Actually, I think you are wrong, or looking at it without taking in the historical context. They were originally built precisely for the people who would live in them.
I know Basingstoke best, and the aim of the place was to act as relocation hub for people who had been living in really bad housing in London (they were called London Overspill towns, but that was not really accurate).
If you look at them all, the idea was to produce a nicer environment to live in than the terrace slums that had been so badly damaged in the Blitz. As a result, almost all of the houses were well built, and around Basingstoke, had gardens, kitchens, good plumbing, central heating, and generously sized rooms. They were arranged around local centres which had a good sized convenience store or small supermarket, food outlets (normally a Fish and Chip shop as built), medium sized schools close by, and a doctors surgery and maybe a dentist. There were also social clubs, community centres and sometimes pubs as well, and green spaces like parks, playing fields, playgrounds and even small patches of woodland left to separate the areas of paving and concrete up.
The bus services were good, and allowed you to get into the centre of the town or the industrial estates (also built to house relocated and new businesses) for work quite easily, allowing the families to exist without needing a car, as most people being relocated from London would not have had one at the time. But there was provision for cars as well as families became better off.
The ex-council house we bought in Popley at the beginning of the '90s had been lived in by the same family since it was built, and I remember talking to them when we were viewing it, and they said it was like heaven on earth compared to where they had moved from.
What has made it worse in the last 30 years, and this is not really anything special to Basingstoke, was when economies were made, such as reducing the bus services, consolidating the medium sized schools into smaller numbers of large schools outside the town, shutting down the local centres and filling in the green spaces and ex-school playing fields with more dwellings, often apartment blocks. And it was not helped when the large stock of council houses were sold off, and became less well maintained in private hands than when they were owned by the Council, which also fragmented the communities. What had been small communities, clustered around a town centre became soulless, slowly decaying areas of increasing deprivation, although I would say that it was still mostly better than the social engineering that produced the tower blocks in many large cities around the country in the same period (look up the Biker Wall for real evidence of "Socialist housing").
I would imagine that many of the council houses sold have ended up in the private rental market as well, which probably doesn't help much.
The 'new towns' were built with the best intentions, only to be corrupted by the modern world.