Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Nineteenth Report

List of conclusions and recommendations

      • The selective licensing of private landlords is urgently required. We recommend that the licensing of private landlords, with an explicit link to housing benefit, be included in the new Local Government Bill (paragraph 25).
      • The low density development in the New Towns has created major problems; there is excessive dependence on the car and poor bus services (paragraph 39).
      • The New Towns' town centres are often very unattractive and, as a result, they are losing shoppers to nearby centres. Masterplans are needed to create high quality public spaces and a mix of uses on traditional high streets, including evening leisure activity (paragraph 30).
      • A substantial amount of the housing developed by the New Town Development Corporations has passed its useful life and will require phased redevelopment over the next decade. There are particular problems with 'innovative' design and materials (paragraph 41).
      • The Councils have a major neighbourhood management problem in the housing estates and local shopping centres which they inherited from the New Town Corporations. This is caused by the combination of the Radburn design and the fragmented ownership of property and land which was a result of right-to-buy sales and the 'fire' sales just before the corporations closed down. This has frequently produced neighbourhoods which are poorly maintained and perceived to be unsafe by residents. The poorly designed estate shopping centres tend to attract antisocial behaviour in areas with few social facilities (paragraph 32).
      • It is important in any new development to ensure the adequate provision of new community facilities and play areas, rather than rely on existing facilities, and to establish management arrangements and funding to ensure long term maintenance (paragraph 33).
      • There are wide variations in the economic and social needs of the New Towns, but they almost all include areas of deprivation with high levels of unemployment and housing need. In those towns around London, there is a major need for affordable housing (paragraph 51).
      • Towns like Runcorn, which are in regions where there are significant levels of deprivation have benefited from major EU funds and other regeneration programmes. However, only five of the 22 towns which have high levels of overall deprivation are eligible for Neighbourhood Renewal Funds. Those towns that are polarised with areas of prosperity alongside pockets of severe needs are not eligible for major regeneration funds (paragraph 52).
      • We recommend the criteria for targeting Neighbourhood Renewal Funds should be reviewed so that small areas, such as enumeration districts which are among the 10 per cent most deprived in England, should be eligible for support irrespective of the prosperity of the wider areas, in which they are located (paragraph 53).


      • The population profiles do not reflect national age structures, and the concentrations around particular age groups is placing increased demands on social services, particularly when the population ages (paragraph 54).
      • The Minister confirmed that sub-soil rights, ransom strips and covenants were being considered as part of stage 2 of the EP review.[56] This is welcome. The review should now identify ways to remove these impediments to local improvements (paragraph 56).
      • The Neighbourhood Renewal Unit could clearly have a role in advising them on the development of an urban management framework for the most problematic housing estates (paragraph 73).
      • The funds provided for the management and maintenance of the New Towns are inadequate, bearing in mind the non-traditional housing design and infrastructure and the extensive landscaping built by the Development Corporations which is more expensive to maintain and much now requires wholesale renewal.
    2. - The Standard Spending Assessment is unlikely to reflect the special conditions in the New Towns.

      - The 'balancing' packages provided for the New Towns are now not generating sufficient returns and need to be reviewed as some of the 'assets' have become liabilities.

      - The clawback requirement has meant that a lot of the income from right-to-buy sales is lost to the local authority and acts as a deterrent to the development of sites. The clawback requirement should be abolished so that the New Town local authorities are put on a similar basis to other local authorities (paragraph 84).

      • Since the Development Corporations were wound up, the sites have been sold off for maximum value rather than reflecting local needs, and the returns have gone directly to the Treasury. English Partnerships has not worked in partnership with many of the New Town local authorities to promote comprehensive regeneration, focussing almost exclusively on maximising its income through land sales (paragraph 75).
      • The vast majority of outstanding sites owned by EP, which are not strategic, should be transferred immediately to the local authorities to enable them to implement their local development strategies and avoid a 'fire' sale (paragraph 86).
      • The definition of strategic sites should be very tightly drawn to give local authorities maximum control over their areas. Those sites which are of truly strategic importance should be passed on to the RDAs, leaving EP as a national agency which local authorities could bring in where they consider it appropriate to provide consultancy support (paragraph 77).



      • A comprehensive audit of the liabilities inherited by the local authorities from the Development Corporations is required so that adequate funds can be allocated for the maintenance of the towns. This audit should look at the social, economic and environmental impact, urban management impact and long term reinvestment needs of the New Towns. We welcome the commitment by the Minister that the second stage of the EP review could include an assessment of the needs of the New Towns (paragraph 78).
      • Local Authorities should keep the receipts from the sales of the non-strategic sites that are transferred to them. They should not be subject to clawback. The land sale receipts would help to meet the maintenance costs borne by the Local Authorities. However, the receipts would not meet the needs of all the New Towns. To meet the needs of individual towns, a New Towns Reinvestment Fund should be established which would recycle the receipts from the sale of strategic sites (paragraph 79).
      • The planning powers held by EP and the outstanding planning permissions on the sites are anomalous and do not help to promote mixed use, mixed tenure schemes on brownfield sites or in town centres (paragraph 80).
      • The outstanding planning permissions issued by the Development Corporations, CNT and EP on land which it still owns should be rescinded immediately where they do not conform with Local Authority plans. (paragraph 81).
      • We recommend that the Government promotes further expansion in the existing New Towns to help meet its housing targets, particularly where the New Towns have not achieved their critical mass. However the approach to the management of liabilities and the disposal of assets adopted by the New Town Corporations, EP and CNT is not appropriate for future development (paragraph 83).
      • It is very surprising that the New Towns 'experiment' has never been evaluated. This evaluation should include more detailed reinvestment needs of the New Towns. An evaluation is urgently required which identifies both good practice and mistakes before any new major new settlements are considered (paragraph 85).


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