Following the 1934 Special Areas Act, which first gave support to disadvantaged regions, Sadler Forster, a leader of the Teesside chamber of commerce, campaigned vigorously for government-backed 'trading estates' to be established in depressed areas.
It was felt that this would allow industry in these areas to diversify and depart from the excessive specialisation which had blighted them during the 1920s. A few trading estates were set up in the later 1930s under separate legislation (Treforest in south Wales, Larkhall near Glasgow, and Aycliffe in county Durham).
After the Second World War the 'special areas' scheme was extended under the terms of the Distribution of Industry Act, passed in 1945. The 1945 Act arose from a determination not to return to pre-war conditions of high unemployment. It renamed the 'special areas' as 'development areas', and drew on much of Forster's thinking by including provisions for new factories and plants in specified locations, as well as for improved local services.
The Act focused on the North-East, west Cumberland, south and north-east Lancashire, south Wales, the Scottish coalfields, Dundee, and the Scottish Highlands.
The legislation of 1945 was certainly contentious in its objective of rigorously controlling the location of new industry, but was much more far-reaching and successful than the Act of 1934.
By 1950 over £30 million had been spent on the programme. Almost a thousand factory buildings were constructed in English areas alone, both publicly and privately financed, with the creation of some 200,000 jobs. Similar success was achieved in Wales and Scotland.
A new Act, the Local Employment Act, was passed in 1960 primarily to simplify and make more flexible the means of assistance available to local industries in smaller areas. Since then, programmes of regional and local development have featured regularly in parliamentary business.
Various Acts have been tailored to foster growth in specific areas, especially those where unemployment was still high.