Memorandum by Basildon District Council
Thank you for your letter dated 27 March 2002,
regarding the above. Your letter requests supplementary memorandum
in light of the announcement by the DTLR on the quinquennial review
of English Partnerships, comments on which I set out below. These
follow the submission made by this Council dated 11 March 2002.
The review of English Partnerships provides
an opportunity for a new relationship between English Partnerships
and district councils that will meet joint aspirations. The DTLR's
proposals envisage the transfer of non-strategic residual assets
to the "most appropriate bodies" to enable English Partnerships
to focus on strategic regeneration projects.
This Council's recent work with English Partnerships
has highlighted their worth to local regeneration. They have significant
resources to facilitate master planning projects and support the
compulsory purchase of land should that be required. The multi-disciplinary
nature of English Partnerships ensures that a wide range of expertise
can be called upon and they have developed a greater understanding
of local needs and priorities.
What will be critical in their future role will
be their relationship with the local council. To this end, English
Partnerships and Basildon Council recently formed a Strategic
Development Partnership, which also includes the East of England
Development Agency, the Thames Gateway South Essex Partnership,
and the DTLR (through the Thames Gateway Strategic Executive and
GO-East). In bringing together the main agencies to work towards
common objectives and identifying barriers to regeneration, the
Council is able to plan confidently new initiatives and redevelopment
schemes, in the knowledge that there is open dialogue with English
Partnerships and the protocols in place for dealing with disputes.
This Partnership evolved from the work the Council
undertook with English Partnerships in preparing a town strategy
for Basildon. The Strategic Development Partnership has endorsed
a Joint Statement of Intent, which identifies the roles of the
main agencies and seven key objectives, drawn from the objectives
of each agency. A copy of the Joint Statement is enclosed.
In the past, English Partnerships have, as a
legacy of the Commissions for the New Towns, tended to promote
their own schemes with a capital return in mind, rather than promoting
regeneration and supporting the Council in its regeneration objectives.
This has led to delay and conflict on major schemes, difficulties
in English Partnerships securing planning consent and protracted
negotiations with the Council to secure reinvestment from English
Partnerships or the relaxation of restrictive covenants.
As a demonstration of this new approach, English
Partnerships are now working with the Council on the Gardiners
Lane South project, one of their 31 National Strategic Sites.
The site has a long and highly contentious planning history, which
after 10 years since first being identified as a comprehensive
development area remains undeveloped. One of the reasons for this
lengthy delay has been the approach taken by the CNT and until
recently English Partnerships, where the motive for developing
the site focussed on the return on the investment, rather than
achieving the planning objectives. Last year the Council decided
to take the initiative, adopt a fresh approach to the planning
of the site and a new project brief for the site, which English
Partnerships have endorsed and agreed to fund a master planning
Following from this success, the Strategic Development
Partnership will shortly meet to start work on town centre master
plans for Basildon and Laindon, both of which have developer interest
in major redevelopment proposals. Although English Partnership's
land ownership in the town centres is limited, the restrictive
covenants thay hold ensure that they remain a major partner in
town centre regeneration.
With regard to the transfer of their residual
assets, in his Press Statement of 20 March 2002, the Minister
refers to the transfer of non-strategic assets to the "most
appropriate bodies" and refers to local authorities as an
example. It should be stressed that the only appropriate body
is the local council.
When the community related assets transfers
took place in Basildon, restrictive covenants, with clawback provisions,
were placed on all assets. In addition, many of the assets sold
to private individuals and developers were subject to restrictions.
Given the current climate of budget constraints on councils and
the inherent cost of the new town legacy, the transfer of English
Partnership's non-strategic assets to the Council will be critical.
This will assist the Council in furthering regeneration initiatives
through the reinvestment of the proceeds from the sale of the
realisable asstes. The alternative option of the transfer of the
assets to another body, for example the Regional Development Agency,
will only create for local councils and developers another government
agency to deal with, one which will be divorced from the local
area and with no political accountability.
These covenants have created restrictions in
bringing forth regeneration projects, whereby either the Council
has to enter into protracted negotiations with English Partnerships
to reach agreement on the value and appropriateness of the covenants
and clawback, or make payment from the land sale to English Partnerships,
money that should be poured back into the regeneration project.
Whilst there are instances whereby English Partnerships has reused
income from residual assets to part fund a project, for example
Five Links, this has only been after lengthy negotiations and