The planning agency which designed Milton Keynes has been handed the job of reshaping a city which is no stranger to adversity: Najaf, in Iraq.
At first glance the stacks of labelled box files which line one wall of Martin Crookston's London office are a trot through some familiar locations in provincial England.
Smethwick, Birmingham, the Black Country and Telford, Newcastle, Najaf.…
And while most of the residents of the holy city have probably never heard of Milton Keynes, the company assigned the job of reshaping Najaf was responsible for designing Britain's most infamous new town.
Much has changed since 1970, when Richard Llewelyn Davies laid down plans for a new settlement to cater for the growing number of families fleeing London in search of a better life.
By the 1980s Milton Keynes had become a byword for both the pros and cons of post-war British urban planning. It was to some a spacious, modern, landscaped town, and to others a dystopic, soulless home to shopping centres and skateboard parks…..