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


Supplementary memorandum by City of Sunderland Council (NT 21(a))

RESPONSE TO QUESTIONS

  1.   What was the original objective of the town?

  Answer: The main objective of the new town was to provide a new settlement to help stimulate the local economy, provide additional employment opportunities for the region and raise the scale and quality of the region's urban development generally.

  2.   Which of these objectives do you think have been met?

  Answer: It is now 15 years since the New Town was completed and it is fair to say that a number of the original objectives have been met for example Washington plays an important and significant part in the City's and regions economy. The most notable success has been the Nissan Car Plant which is a very large regional employer. The town also provides a valuable source of housing for the region. Whilst the original new town housing was considered to be high quality at the time of completion much of it is now in a poor condition and requiring repair. Some of the villages comprising Washington were built with relatively high quality materials and these are in a far better state of repair. It is worth noting that some of the layouts and buildings in Washington are worthy of retention and protection as they reflect the principles upon which the town was built.

  3.   What do you consider to be its role in the region/sub region in the future?

  Answer: Washington has an important role to play in the future of the region and sub region. It is a major source of employment and is likely to continue to be so for many years. It provides the City of Sunderland with the majority of its economic development land (54 per cent) and is also an important settlement providing homes for people in the Tyne and Wear area.

  4.   To what extent is the original masterplan for the town still used as a guiding principle for development and redevelopment?

  Answer: The original masterplan is not specifically used as a tool for guiding development or redevelopment in Washington as the original masterplan has now been fully implemented. Most new development adheres to the overall land use patterns which were prescribed in the masterplan. For example the rigidity of the existing land use pattern and the road network effectively guides new development to the locations which were identified in the original masterplan.

  5.   How well have the old and new parts of your town been integrated? If they have not been well integrated what form does this take in physical/spatial terms and what are the implications of this for growth of the town?

  Answer: The old and new parts of Washington have not been particularly well integrated for example there are a number of new areas of housing which form isolated blocks of residential development that are not closely related to any village centre and are surrounded by industrial estates. These areas of development like many of the villages in Washington are reliant on the car as a means of transport. The new areas of residential development do not relate to the new town principles or ethos and do not incorporate innovative layouts or house types this has the effect of further contributing to the bland townscape which characterises much of Washington. New industrial and economic development does relate better to the original new town masterplan. This is because such developments have been directed to the existing industrial land allocations which were identified in the masterplan.

  In the future it will be increasingly difficult to make the linkages between newer areas of residential development and the older original village areas. Such developments also imply a greater level of segregation between different parts of the town which will be reinforced unless appropriate measures are taken to try and improve linkages and connections.

  6.   Has/can the town achieve the population that was originally planned?

  Answer: The town was originally planned to accommodate between 70,000 and 80,000 people. The population of Washington is now approximately 61,700. Therefore the original targets have not been met. However it should be noted that young age structure of the population of Washington means that it is particularly mobile.

  7.   How does the age profile of your population relate to the national average? Is this related to being a New Town? How do local agencies and strategies respond to that?

  Answer: The average age of Washington's population is much younger than the region or UK average. There is a high concentration of 0-15 year olds in comparison to other age groups (26 per cent per head of population). The health, well being and development of young people were identified as priorities in the 1996-97 City Strategy document. The Council then commissioned a comprehensive Youth Review which looked at service delivery and provision. More than 1,500 young people were consulted. In 1998 the Sunderland Youth Review was published by the National Youth Agency (NYA) in 1998.

  The City of Sunderland Partnership in which the Council plays a lead role, has placed young people as a priority within its community strategy. A youth strategy, which gives young people a voice in decision making is also in place. SIB funding has helped establish "Keyfund" which aims to give young people the opportunity to find satisfaction from demonstrating that they can make a constructive contribution to the community.

  8.   How strong is the demand for the existing commercial land? Is there demand for further commercial development in the town? What is the effect of commercial development in the town on other towns in the sub regional economy?

  Answer: Demand remains buoyant in Washington for commercial land it contains 54 per cent of the City's industrial land on 16 industrial estates. The Council regularly receives enquiries about potential commercial uses on land allocated for economic development. English Partnerships owns a sizeable amount of commercial land in Washington some of which has been prepared for future economic use. Much of the commercial land in Washington is well located in terms of access to the A1 and A19 this makes it regionally popular with industry and business. Nissan Motor Manufacturing (UK) Ltd plays a major role in the economy of Washington and the region. It is estimated that 20,000 jobs throughout the north east are directly dependent on Nissan. Washingtons commercial developments therefore have an important positive effect on the region as a whole.

  9.   Can you describe the sub regional planning arrangements that are in place to regulate/facilitate development? Can you describe the strengths and weaknesses of the current approach.

  Answer: The sub regional planning arrangements consist primarily of the Unitary Development Plan (UDP) and Regional Planning Guidance for the North East. The UDP covers all of Washington, Sunderland and the Coalfields area. The City of Sunderland is fortunate as unlike many other authorities as it already has an adopted UDP which is presently being reviewed. This was adopted in 1998 and is currently undergoing review on a rolling basis starting with the Housing policies. In the North East, local councils are closely involved with the process of producing Regional Planning Guidance. Following publication of a consultation draft in May 1999, draft Regional Planning Guidance was prepared by the Association of North East Councils in consultation with other regional partners and has been subject to widespread consultation.

  The draft Guidance has been prepared around the following four key themes:

    —  Regeneration.

    —  Opportunity.

    —  Accessibility.

    —  Conservation.

  One of the main criticisms of the planning system generally and the development plan process is the length of time it takes to produce up to date plans. The RPG process which will have an important impact on Washington (Particularly in light of the Strategic Development site north of Nissan which is being investigated) is still unadopted and delays are a concern.

  10.   What is the regional/sub regional role of the shopping centre in your town? What investment is proposed in the town centre area in the next few years?

  Answer: The Galleries (Washington's main shopping centre) is the second largest shopping centre (31,000 sq m) in the City and sixth in Tyne and Wear. Opened in 1974, it was the first covered centre in the North East and underwent a £2.4 million refurbishment in 1990. The shopping centre is privately owned therefore the council is limited in investments that can be made. Proposals for improvements in the shopping function of the Town Centre will normally originate with the private sector.


ORGANISATIONS, REGULATIONS AND FINANCE

  11.   Can you give some numerical examples of the problems that have arisen with clawback and covenants in housing, amenity space and other land uses?

  12.   The committee has been made aware that in some cases clawback has made Right to Buy marginal or even negative, in terms of receipts to the local authority. Has this been the case in your authority, if so can you give a financial example? What are the implications of this?

  Answer: Information unavailable. Although it is clear that the Housing Transfer to the Sunderland Housing group has changed things dramatically and many of the clawback, amenity space and land uses issues have been resolved as part of the transfer.

  13.   Can you quantify the outstanding liabilities facing your authority, firstly as a result of the package of assets and liabilities transferred to the authority at the winding up of the Development Corporation, and secondly as a result of design and other issues relating to the New Town?

  Answer: Information unavailable

  14.   How does the financial value of the liabilities caused as a result of your town being a New Town, compare to the financial value of the remaining assets held by English Partnerships in the town?

  Answer: The financial value of the liabilities exceed the financial value of the remaining assets held by English Partnerships in the town. EP assets are confined to approximately 11 sites distributed throughout Washington. Much of this land is allocated for economic development. The cost of maintaining the new town is considerable and the council bears the burden of this.

  15.   To what extent has English Partnerships participated in regeneration partnerships in your town?

  Answer: Not a great deal the majority of regeneration partnerships involve the City of Sunderland, local charities and organisations, community groups, schools and local residents.

  16.   Many of the submissions have referred to the inadequacy of the existing SSA to reflect the needs of the New Towns. Can you detail those weaknesses and set out any suggestions about how any successor to the SSA could be improved?

  Answer: It is difficult for the council to separate the money spent on Washington as the Standard Spending Allocation is for all of Sunderland including Washington.

  17.   Has the pattern of ownership and CNT/EP's role had any implications in your ability to develop a housing strategy for the areas?

  Answer: The housing strategy has always taken on a city wide focus and any mention of Washington has largely been in relation to initiatives or improvement schemes relating to the former Council stock (which was transferred to the Council from the Washington Development Corporation), and with little emphasis upon new or private housing. The tenure mix of Washington is different from some other new towns in that it has a good mix of both private and social housing. The good availability of affordable social housing is probably another reason why there has not been a great impact upon the Councils ability to develop a housing strategy for the Washington area.

DESIGN

  18.   What is the balance between the original design/materials used and lack of maintenance/resources for maintenance in the causes of the poor housing conditions found in some of the New Towns?

  Answer: It is fair to say that in a number of the villages some of the materials used have not weathered well and are now in a state of disrepair. However those properties owned by the Sunderland Housing Group there is now substantial investment available to improve or fit better materials and redevelop some areas. The new Washington Housing Company part of the Sunderland Housing Group plans to tackle outstanding problems in the stock with £23.2 million in the next five years and a further £111 million over a period of approximately 25 years. However there are a number of private properties which also require investment to improve external condition this may be addressed through the councils forthcoming Private Housing Grant Scheme which will be introduced later this year.

  19.   Has your design led to problems with crime? If so, have you looked at ways to design out crime? Are there any funding streams currently available to address this particular problem and if so how successful have you been at bidding for such funding?

  Answer: In some of the villages there are pockets of higher crime however it is not clear that the specific design of the villages has led to increase crime. There are issues relating to security and surveillance of parked cars and street activity in some villages. There is a problem with poorly illuminated paths linking villages. The high amount of landscaping which was incorporated within the new town masterplan now means that there large areas of shrubbery next to roads and paths which effectively reduce surveillance. Much of the housing which has been constructed in the post new town era is typical suburban "cul de sac" type development which generates many issues relating to safety and security

  20.   What are you doing through your local Transport Plan to address the problems of car dependence? Does your local Transport Plan include provision for dealing with issues of design and layout where that promotes car dependence?

  Answer: The LTP is primarily a Tyne and Wear Policy document which puts forward a series of strategy themes aimed at reducing travel, increasing mode choice, reducing adverse effects of traffic. The overall aims are to improve the environment.

  The LTP does not deal with issues of design specifically. Development control guidelines are being developed so that DC officers can request and enforce Travel Plans for large developments (and specify what exactly the developer needs to do).

  21.   Have you introduced or planned any measures to promote mobility schemes targeted at the old or the young?

  Answer: A Community Transport scheme has been recently launched to cover North Washington as well as the coalfields area of the City. This has been funded through the Healthy Living Centre. In addition there are other voluntary sector transport schemes operating in Washington and consideration is being given to co-ordinating those through a brokerage scheme.


 
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Prepared 23 August 2002