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


Supplementary memorandum by Torfaen County Borough Council (NT 29(a))

  1.  The original objective of the new town was to provide housing close to industry located on the flat land provided by Cwmbran under the Special Areas Act (1934) and Distribution of Industry Act (1945). By 1976, 8,100 dwellings were built and by 1988 10,500. With the depression of the late 1970's Cwmbran Development Corporation changed its focus on development from housing to industry. More than 5,400 jobs were created by Cwmbran Development Corporation of which 30 per cent were provided since 1980.

  2.  In terms of the two key objectives of the new town, provision of housing (1950-1986) and the focus of job provision (1974-1986), the Development Corporation were successful. It is only now 50 years on from designation that problems are surfacing, as follows:

  (i)  Simultaneous ageing of property in particular housing and local shopping areas.

  (ii)  The upkeep of large areas of green space.

  (iii)  High levels of deprivation focussed in two of the western wards of the town.

  (iv)  Lack of car parking facilities in the earlier build residential areas.

  (v)  Primary transport network in the town principally design for the car.

  (vi)  Design "defects" in "experimental" housing areas, leading to:

    (a)  Problem with crime;

    (b)  Poor access arrangements for cars, pedestrians and public transport.

  3.  Cwmbran's role in the south east Wales region will remain, as it is at present, a key location for industrial, commercial and retail activities and as a popular place to live.

  4.  The original master plan has been superseded by the Torfaen Local Plan (adopted 2000). Many of the guiding principles of the original master plan are reflected in the Local Plan, for example the Central Recreation Area and the disposition of industrial, residential and retail uses.

5.  Cwmbran New Town was built around the villages of Old Cwmbran, Pontnewynydd, Croesyceiliog and Henllys. These original settlements are now well integrated and largely have not imposed constraints or given rise to implications for the growth of the town.

  6.  Originally the designated population for Cwmbran was 35,000. This was increased to 55,000 in 1958. Cwmbran's current population is 48,000 (1991 Census) although indicators are that the population is higher (see 7).

  7.  Cwmbran New Town, located in the south of Torfaen County Borough has been a focal point for growth since its designation as a new town in 1949. The early and mid years of its evolution witnessed major housing developments and growth in population. At the time of the 1991 Census, Cwmbran had a population totalling 47,762 living in 18,346 households. According to the Council Tax register, there are now 20,606 households accommodating an estimated 52,000 people.

  The only detailed population figures available relating to the Cwmbran Urban Area are derived from the 1991 Census. The figures suggest that the town has a relatively young population with 42 per cent of the population under 30 years of age compared to the Welsh average of 40 per cent and a UK (excluding Northern Ireland) average of 41 per cent. The newer areas situated in the south-west of the town house a younger population than the town as a whole with 50 per cent of the population in this area aged below 30. The relatively young population profile of Cwmbran is characteristic of new towns throughout the United Kingdom e.g. Milton Keynes, Bracknell and Stevenage.

  The incidence of "pocketed" deprivation is also particularly characteristic of New Towns—Cwmbran is not an exception. Of the 12 wards which make up Cwmbran New Town two lie within the top quartile of the most deprived wards in Wales. St Dials and Upper Cwmbran ranking 176 and 163 respectively out of a total of 865 wards in Wales in terms of the composite index of multiple deprivation. Agencies operating specifically within the south-west area of Cwmbran are aware of the age profile of the population and target the services they provide accordingly. Services provided include, enhanced early years and childcare provision, family support, adult education classes and opportunities for up-skilling and re-training for young people, lone parents and parents who stay at home to look after children.

  8.  There is a strong demand for all commercial development especially retail in the town centre area. Demand is less strong in the town's hinterland. The town itself is constrained in terms of further development due to the town's design and cost of site assembly.

  9.  Local Government Reorganisation in Wales (1995) created 22 Unitary Authorities of which Torfaen is one. Regional planning arrangements are at present collaborative rather than statutory. Although strong links have been formed between the 10 Unitary Authorities and the Brecon Beacons National Park through the South East Wales Strategic Planning Group. The collaborative nature of the arrangements has created difficulties in terms of addressing key contentious regional issues. The National Assembly for Wales is currently preparing the Wales Spatial Plan which may form the basis for stronger regional planning.

  10.  Cwmbran Shopping Centre has been extremely successful given its planned nature, fully pedestrianised precincts and free car parking. Its growth was detrimental to other shopping centres in the County Borough in particular Pontypool and Blaenavon where retail bases have declined as Cwmbran grew. Although not fulfilling a Sub-Regional role, Cwmbran's status is close to this. The north west quadrant of the town centre has recently been redeveloped to create a new Asda store, Woolworth and three unit shops. The former Asda building is currently vacant but is programmed for refurbishment to create seven unit shops.

  Although successful the town centre lacks the public presence (Council/Government offices etc) and "night-life" exhibited by "normal" towns.

  The town centre is largely in one ownership (Prudential) and lacks the competition varied ownership would give. The tight inner ring of roads and proximity of housing inhibits growth of the town centre. This has led to pressure for edge of town, out of town development.

  11.  A recent example is illustrated by a ransom strip (comprising of Community Related Asset) land essential to enabling access to a former social services building. This building had fallen into disrepair and was causing problems to the local community due to vandalism. One local resident was severely injured attempting to intervene to stop such activity.

  Negotiation of the ransom strip's value with EP certainly extended the process of creating a package for sale to allow redevelopment of the site for housing.

  The loss in terms of capital receipt to the Council amounted to £170,000 (current estimate). It was only at the end of the negotiation period that EP offered to ring fence the receipt for 18 months to allow it to be recycled into a regeneration project for Cwmbran. Although further correspondence from EP casts considerable doubt whether this receipt will be ring fenced to Cwmbran.

  This illustrated two points:

    —  EP/CNT Clawback negotiation can increase considerably the time taken to bring projects forward.

    —  There is no clear policy relating to recycling clawback for regeneration. The decision to ring fence the monies in the above instance came after considerable pressure from the Council but did not appear to stem from a strategic view of Cwmbran's needs nor could it be related to experience in other new towns.

  Furthermore as the need to promote regeneration of the older areas of the town gathers pace the existence of CRA land interspersed with other land will not only slow down potential projects but also restrict the Council's ability to reinvest receipts arising from land sale (also see answer under 17).

  12.  No.

  13.  This is extremely difficult to quantify, however, independent condition surveys of the Council's retail shopping are currently being undertaken.

  14.  English Partnerships currently hold 70 per cent clawback in assets valued at £1,618,750 (74 shops value as at 1 April 1998).

  15.  English Partnerships have not participated in a specific and systematic way in the regeneration of Cwmbran.

  16.  The special circumstances of new towns are not recognised in terms of either SSA or the General Capital Funding formula in particular the housing and regeneration blocks. Torfaen, along with other members of the New Towns Group have commissioned research into these issues. It is hoped this will be available shortly. (NB Cwmbran's circumstance as Wales' only new town creates a different situation to that in England since the inception of the Welsh Assembly).

  17.  Given Cwmbran is now 50 years old there is a need to consider redevelopment of certain areas of the town. The fragmented and dispersed pattern of CNT/EP interest in land with potential for development makes the task more difficult. In particular the lack of full receipt retention on sale of CNT/EP does not encourage regeneration projects and lessens political will to promote innovative projects. As illustrated under question 11 the speed of projects can be decreased due to the lengthy negotiations required.

  18.  The key issues in Cwmbran in terms of housing are as follows:

    —  Simultaneous ageing of stock.

    —  Areas of standard built housing suffering from similar problems (eg mono pitched roofs leading to water ingress).

    —  Lack of provision in designs of houses to allow for their extension/adaption and/or the accommodation of vehicles.

  19.  The original design of Cwmbran New Town and subsequent developments within the town built in the early 1970s have undoubtedly led to problems with crime. Poorly designed and badly lit residential and shopping areas have led to perceived unsafe or "no-go" areas, attract anti-social behaviour, provide areas for alcohol and substance misuse, criminal damage and burglary.

  Designing out crime has been a paramount consideration in relation to any new development proposed within the Town. More importantly initiatives that have been implemented to tackle crime and disorder within Cwmbran include the following:

  (i)  "Safe and secure" projects provided by Age Concern and Victim Support which are funded largely by the National lottery.

  (ii)  Vehicle arson and abandoned vehicle project funded by the local authority and the police authority.

  (iii)  Community mediation projects funded by the police and voluntary organisations; local environmental projects to address perceived "no-go" areas.

  (iv)  Joint action with the police and health authority to reduce and prevent drug and alcohol abuse.

  (v)  "Safe Routes to School" project.

  (vi)  Environmental projects involving the community.

  (vii)  Various youth projects—including initiatives to maintain the education of excluded children.

  Possible funding sources include:

    —  The National Lottery—New Opportunities Fund.

    —  Recovered Assets Fund—Police Authority.

    —  CCTV Funding—Home Office.

    —  European Regional Development Funding (including INTERREG).

    —  European Social Fund.

    —  Communities First.

    —  Local Regeneration Fund.

  The Council is pursuing all of these sources of funding.

20.   THE FOLLOWING MEASURES ARE BEING PROMOTED THROUGH THE LTP:

Safe Routes to School

  Shared Cycle/Footway aimed early on at Secondary Schools (TG funded).

Travel Plan

  Travel Plan Co-ordinator engaged on a "Gwent" wide basis to contact businesses with approximately 100 employees and Secondary schools to assist in getting travel plans up and running—Liaison with Education and Social Services.

Interchange

  Study presently ongoing at Cwmbran Station into interchange (TG Funded).

Improvements in Main Bus Corridor

  Transport Grant funded to improve the waiting environment, safety security accessibility particularly for mobility impaired.

21.  CONCESSIONARY FARE SCHEME NAFW

  Free travel local bus services within Wales.

Community Transport Group

  Voluntary group provides approximately 22,000 journeys (+ shop mobility facilities in Cwmbran) and reviews grants from the Council. Provides services to those because of frailty or disability would be unable to use public transport.

Safe Route to School

  These are promoted (see 20) and a National Cycle Route (42) passes through Cwmbran.


 
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