After the devastation suffered by London and other large cities in the Second World War, urban planners faced an unprecedented challenge in rehousing the urban population and parts of Epping Forest were selected for development.

Bombing had destroyed more than one million London homes, and government planners were keen to expand out of the city to populate fringe areas.

Two areas selected for the supposedly future-proof new towns were Harlow and Ongar, and although Harlow was successfully developed, the plans for Ongar never came to fruition due to transport and funding problems.

In the 1944 Greater London Plan developed by Sir Patrick Abercrombie, designs and illustrations for the “Ongar New Town” were set out.

The development would have seen a huge population rise and dramatic changes to the area’s layout.

The civic area of the town would have been around the old town centre and Ongar castle, with six neighbourhoods of around 10,000 people.

Each neighbourhood would have been self contained with their own community centres, schools and shops, and separated from other areas by slices of parkland.

The new town centre would have been pedestrianised, served by public transport and with self contained shopping and business areas, with an industrial site between High Ongar and Chelmsford.

Historian and TfL employee Mike Ashcroft said the difference would have been massive.

"It would have been a radical change", he said.

"New towns were very self contained, you would have lived and worked in Ongar New Town and not commuted out."

New Ongar never came to be, but the nearby town of Harlow is considered to be an exemplary example of the post-war towns.

Historian Ron Bill, 82, has written extensively about Harlow’s development as a new town, and how it grew from a population of 5,000 to 80,000.

He said that at a recent meeting, long term residents of the town had reflected on the changes development brought.

He said: “Some people there had campaigned against it, but almost all of them now said they welcomed it.

“They said services are better, schools are better and we have better shops than we would have done.

“We think we have benefited from the new town as long term residents.”

But historian Jenny Main said people in Ongar were happy that the new town never damaged the area’s rural nature.

She said: “The population was around 2,250 in 1938 and the proposed growth was to 60,000.

“It was going to be huge, I think we are happy it stayed the way it was.”

Harlow was ultimately selected for development because of better rail links, but the idea of what could have been still provides a topic of debate and interest more than 50 years on.