The Ten Year Plan
This surprisingly entertaining government–sponsored documentary addresses the postwar housing crisis with real wit, and gives early exposure to a future comedy star.
The contribution of the British steel industry to the construction of temporary housing might seem an unpromising topic. Yet The Ten Year Plan, written and directed by newcomer Lewis Gilbert (Alfie, Shirley Valentine), extolls the virtues of the humble ‘prefab’ with great panache.
In the closing months of WWII, the government took action to address the nation’s housing crisis. This had escalated following the interruption of the 1930s slum clearance programme and the Luftwaffe’s destruction of almost half a million homes. Prefabricated houses were a key tool of the Housing Act 1944, despite being described rather mean–spiritedly by housing minister Nye Bevan as ‘rabbit hutches’.
The film’s trump card is a young Charles Hawtrey, playing a reporter sent to investigate this bold new housing solution. Well over a decade before the Carry On films made him a star, Hawtrey’s familiar persona swings into action in service of Gilbert’s irreverent script. As it turned out, winning over sceptical viewers was easier than anticipated: the supposedly temporary council housing proved so popular and hard–wearing that the ‘ten year plan’ would endure for decades to come.