Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum by North Lanarkshire Council (NT 44)

  North Lanarkshire Council was established on 1 April 1996 following the re-organisation of local government in Scotland. North Lanarkshire is the successor unitary authority to the former District Councils of:

Cumbernauld and Kilsyth;

Motherwell;

Monklands; and

Strathkelvin (in part).

  North Lanarkshire Council also inherited responsibility for delivering those services which had previously been under the jurisdiction of the former Strathclyde Regional Council—for example: Education; Social Work; Roads and Transportation; Consumer and Trading Standards; and Physical Planning.

  The timing of the dissolution of Scotland's new towns also coincided with this re-organisation and the five New Town Development Corporations were ultimately dissolved by the then Secretary of State for Scotland some 10 months after re-organisation.

  North Lanarkshire Council became the successor unitary authority for Cumbernauld New Town. The comments contained within this response are therefore limited to our experiences within Cumbernauld.

  The dissolution of new towns in Scotland was somewhat different from the procedure in England in that no statutory residuary bodies were created. In the main, the new unitary authorities inherited all functions of the former development corporations. One exception to this is that industrial land was transferred to Scottish Enterprise to market and develop. We would not appear to have suffered the same problems as the English new towns have experienced when dealing with English Partnerships in this regard.

  Much of the response to the Urban Affairs Sub-Committee made by the English New Towns Special Interest Group seems concerned with the dissatisfactory arrangements surrounding the remit and operation of English Partnerships. Given that we do not experience problems of this nature, North Lanarkshire Council's comments are more localised and service specific.

1.  TRANSITIONAL ISSUES

  By statutory instrument made in 1996 the Secretary of State for Scotland transferred certain specific assets (namely land, mortgages and discount securities) to North Lanarkshire Council as local authority. In 1997 a further statutory instrument transferred all remaining "property, rights and liabilities" of the Development Corporation to the Council. That statutory instrument made no attempt to specify what those were and while this mechanism was administratively convenient and provided for legal certainty (in that there were no exclusions), the view has been expressed within our own Council that this lack of specification did create difficulties and uncertainties for the successor local authorities.

  From a staff and operational perspective our own experience of assimilating staff gave rise to a number of difficulties. Firstly, from an operational perspective, during the winding up process the Development Corporation had a steadily decreasing number of staff and became increasingly less able to supply information and background to North Lanarkshire Council as the succeeding authority. Many of the Development Corporation's staff retired or sought other employment in the public or private sectors with the consequence that much detailed information was lost to the Council as successor authority. Doubtless these problems were significantly compounded by the fact that Scottish local government was undertaking its own major re-organisation.

  On a more general comment it was also necessary to take account of the fact that the Development Corporation had operated under very different statutory and financial requirements from those of the Scottish local authorities.

  Particular issues on staffing were:

  (a)  Whereas Sections 8 and 9 of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1994 provided a statutory basis for the transfer of staff of the former local authorities to the new Councils—and in particular protecting conditions of service at the point of transfer—this statutory requirement did not apply to the Development Corporation staff.

  (b)  The statutory mechanism created by the 1994 Act and the Staff Commission with all its associated guidance on staff matching procedures, much of which was further developed by this Council itself, had no application to the Development Corporation staff. The result was that the Development Corporation staff were excluded from the formal matching process which took place under the auspices of the Staff Commission.

  (c)  The application of the TUPE regulations gave rise to somewhat different issues than those which arose under the statutory transfer of local government staff. This authority adopted the view that all the staff of the Development Corporation would be treated as having TUPE transferred to the new Council, in order to give a similar protection (broadly) to the transferred conditions of local government staff.

  (d)  Local Government staff are used to the negotiating mechanisms of the local government procedures at national level involving the JNC, NJC etc which were fairly well understood by managers and unions. These procedures and negotiating mechanisms differed radically from the Whitley Council negotiating mechanisms which operated for new town staff.

  (e)  In similar vein the salary scales operated by the new towns were significantly different (as indeed were salary levels in many cases) and we had to undertake a process of assimilating these staff to our own local government pay scales.

  (f)  In addition there were some particular conditions of service relating to specific issues which gave enhanced conditions to new town staff such as those in relation to car leasing terms, redundancy terms etc. Part of the purpose of negotiating current conditions for APT&C staff was to resolve, through that collective agreement, a number of these matters which has achieved a rationalisation of those mechanisms, albeit not yet for manual workers.

2.  HOUSING ISSUES

  As part of the process of winding-up Cumbernauld Development Corporation (CDC) during 1996, landlords were sought to acquire the Corporation's housing stock. Tenants were balloted by area as to whether they wished to transfer to North Lanarkshire Council or Scottish Homes (now Communities Scotland). Four of these areas opted for North Lanarkshire Council and five for Scottish Homes. The local transfer process was achieved by normal conveyancing rather than by any statutory transfer process as was the case under local government re-organisation. In the case of the five Scottish Homes areas, only houses and their immediate curtilage were transferred to Scottish Homes. The remaining landscaping and open spaces were transferred to North Lanarkshire Council. (This further compounds the Maintenance Issues referred to in section 4).

    —  North Lanarkshire Council acquired 1,400 units from CDC on 1 October 1996.

    —  Of the housing stock transferred to Scottish Homes, 1,869 properties have subsequently transferred to Cumbernauld Housing Partnership Ltd (CHP) on 13 November 2000.

    —  The overall tenure profile for Cumbernauld is:
TenurePercentage
Owner Occupation78
Cumbernauld Housing Partnership10
North Lanarkshire Council8
Housing Associations3
Private Rented Sector1
Total100



  Housing conditions within central Cumbernauld have been on the decline for a number of years. This has been due to a lack of investment in the fabric of the buildings. The majority of properties acquired by CHP are of a non-traditional or rationalised traditional construction type (eg flat roof, mono-pitch roof, split level housing, high rise flats, maisonettes and a block of deck access properties). Housing condition issues include:

    —  Water penetration within high rise flats.

    —  Window and door replacement.

    —  External roof and wall finishes.

    —  Lift replacement.

    —  Internal fixtures and fittings.

  Both CHP and the Council are addressing the issues affecting property conditions, however, activities are constrained by two factors: Finance; and, the ability to influence owner-occupier participation.

  Stock transfer was achieved following an assessment of repair and maintenance requirements and did not permit the inclusion of improvements anticipated over a projected 30 year period within the calculation of investment needs. This limits future investment capacity in housing improvement programmes.

  The problem of major capital investment to the housing stock is further compounded by the high incidence of mixed tenure at both estate level and indeed within individual blocks of high rise flats. This presents difficulty in progressing capital works that require all owners to contribute to the cost of works. The Council has directed investment at items within flats, such as windows and doors which can be isolated to individual properties and also to terraced properties where rendering can be limited to Council owned houses. Any desire for comprehensive regeneration of housing within the town must overcome the difficulty of achieving agreement of owners to participate and to find methods of making capital investment affordable to low income owner-occupiers.


3.  DEMOGRAPHIC ISSUES

  The population of Cumbernauld accounts for 16 per cent of the total North Lanarkshire population.

  Whilst the total number of people living in North Lanarkshire saw little change during the 1990's, this is not borne out in Cumbernauld where the population has increased since 1991 by about 9 per cent.

Child Population (0-5)

  When the child population (0-15) is considered in isolation from the total population, it is estimated that the smallest population decrease between 1999 and 2004 will occur in the Cumbernauld area (-0.90). The total decrease in child population (0-15) for North Lanarkshire for 2004 is estimated to be -4.30 per cent.

Adult Population (16-64)

  When taking into account the adult population (16-64), it is anticipated that the Cumbernauld area will have the greatest increase between 1999 and 2004 (0.99 per cent). The total decrease in the adult population (16-64) for North Lanarkshire between1999 and 2004 is estimated to be -0.17 per cent.

Elderly Population (65+)

  It is anticipated that the total elderly population in North Lanarkshire is set to increase by 4.8 per cent between 1999 and 2004. By far, the greatest increase will be in the Cumbernauld area. Estimates for 2004 suggest that the elderly population in Cumbernauld will increase by a staggering 15.8 per cent (in all other areas the population increase between 1999 and 2004 ranges between 0.7 per cent for Motherwell to 5.3 per cent for Airdrie). It should be noted however that whilst the number of older person households in Cumbernauld is expected to increase more rapidly than elsewhere in North Lanarkshire, the proportion of older person households within the town itself remains lower than in the rest of North Lanarkshire due to the expansion of the town described in section 5 below.

Implications of Changes in Population

  These projections have serious implications for the social care needs of those living in Cumbernauld and this will have to be considered in any future planning of resources and services. Specifically, in conjunction with other departments in North Lanarkshire Council and through joint working with its partners, it is crucial that the Social Work Department ensures that all planning and service development for the Cumbernauld area, for both residential and non residential services, meets the needs of the ageing population in Cumbernauld.

4.  DESIGN ISSUES AND MAINTENANCE OF OPEN SPACES

  The original concept which guided the design of central areas of Cumbernauld was based on an attempt to move away from earlier new town design schemes. The Town Centre and its immediate environs were built to relatively high density with segregated pedestrian and traffic routes. The housing was almost exclusively built for rent. The roads network was also designed on the assumption that in due course there would be a high level of car ownership.

  In the Town Centre areas this has resulted in a very large length of remote footways connecting housing areas to each other and to the Town Centre. These remote footways are flanked by areas of common open space. In addition, the high density of the residential areas and the resulting reduction in private garden space was compensated for by the provision of areas of public open space located within the housing areas. This was generally done in the form of courtyards or play areas, closely integrated with the neighbouring housing—a legacy of which is a significant number of residents' complaints regarding ball games.

  The cost of maintaining the extensive footpath network and the open space is significantly higher than that incurred in more "traditional" town centre locations. This is a reflection of both the larger areas of road and footpath involved, the locations being awkward to access and the disadvantage of roads and footpaths not being sited adjacent to each other. The higher maintenance costs are even further compounded by the nature of the landscaping. Structural planting is close to properties and pedestrians which places pressure on the Council to maintain these more intensively than in other parts of North Lanarkshire. For example: Continual pruning of shrubs to limit overhangs to pathways and interference with buildings and windows.

  Public perception of a decrease in both the quality and level of service is also an issue in terms of open space maintenance since the Council is unable to allocate revenue at a comparable level to that of the former Development Corporation. This issue was also highlighted by the English New Towns Special Interest Group (paragraph 3.5).

5.  SOCIAL INCLUSION

  Incidences of deprivation exist within particular housing areas in Cumbernauld, however, this is particularly localised in comparison to many of the larger areas of North Lanarkshire which suffer from multiple deprivation. The Council and its public and voluntary sector partners address this deprivation through the delivery of mainstream services and targeted initiatives. The problems of deprivation and social inclusion in Cumbernauld are further compounded however, by factors linked to new town status:

  The major expansion of the north side of the town from the 1970's onwards was undertaken on more "traditional" lines. Furthermore it was an expansion which was pursued on the basis of the housing being provided, for sale, by private housebuilders. The result has been that almost all the privately owned suburban style estates are situated in one part of the town. The right to buy provisions have seen a significant growth in private ownership within the original core area of the new town but this has not prevented the very stark contrasts in style and quality of housing and a sharp social and economic contrast between the two parts of the town. This division makes planning for the provision of community and recreational facilities in a way that promotes social inclusion more difficult.

  Similarly, in the last two years North Lanarkshire Council has had to close three primary schools in the south side of the town due to over provision, whilst we are currently required to build two new schools in the north area of the town.

  The high level of owner occupied housing, including the volume of houses purchased through the Right to Buy Scheme, has resulted in a lower percentage of housing to rent. The Private Rented Sector is increasing, whilst at the same time there are 15 applicants on the Council's waiting list for every available property in any single year.

6.  ECONOMIC ISSUES

  Cumbernauld has achieved steady growth and is now Lanarkshire's second largest town and its third most important employment location. The town's modern business locations are an important economic asset both for central Scotland and the Council, and they have proved successful in attracting new businesses. This attraction will in part be a response to the greenfield development opportunities which are available in the "new town", for incoming investors. These are opportunities which will be particularly attractive in an area which is more frequently characterised by an emphasis on brownfield development. This may, in isolated occasions, see development opportunities being taken up in a "new town" location which might otherwise have been directed to a brownfield or regeneration site. Nevertheless it would appear that the special and contrasting development opportunities which the town can offer are, in overall terms, a positive benefit to the area. On this basis the role which the town plays in economic development is one which is worthy of being pursued.

7.  CUMBERNAULD TOWN CENTRE

  Cumbernauld Town Centre complex is a multi level megastructure which was originally conceived as being a site which would house, not only the town's shopping, but also its social, commercial and civic functions. The building, due to its complicated layout and structure, is not only expensive to maintain and manage, but also one which is difficult to effectively integrate into new developments. In addition, the structure is very inflexible and has not proved capable of adapting to the changing needs of retailers.

  The further development of the Centre is complicated by the pattern of ownership which has developed. The properties were originally built and owned by the Development Corporation. The original megastructure, however, was sold to one institution whilst the Corporation sold earlier extensions to different parties. The planning and implementation of further extensions needed to modernise the Centre's infrastructure are made more difficult by having to accommodate the different and competing priorities of each interest.

8.  TRANSPORT ISSUES

  The heavily car orientated design of Cumbernauld also makes it difficult to develop alternatives to the car. The railway station has been left relatively isolated from the town centre and the high dependence on remote footpaths can discourage pedestrians from accessing buses. Similarly, bus drop off points can be perceived as remote from the residential areas they are intended to serve. These are factors which present obstacles of both a practical and financial nature when developing and seeking to implement strategies for sustainable transport.

  I appreciate that the nature and content of these comments are very specific and do not perhaps answer the more strategic questions posed by the Urban Affairs Sub Committee in their Terms of Reference. I would wish to bring these matters to the Sub Committee's attention however, in order that our experiences may be shared and lessons learned.

  I trust this information is helpful and may I wish the Urban Affairs Sub Committee every success with its inquiry.


 
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