Memorandum by Warrington Borough Council
I refer to your letter of 27 March 2002, inviting
this Council to respond to the 21 questions raised in the light
of the completed first stage of consultation with English New
Towns Local Authorities on the above matter.
I now respond,, on behalf of the Council, to
those questions, as follows:
Q.1 What was the original objective of the
town? The reference point for setting out the objectives for development
of Warrington as a New Town is the "Warrington New Town Outline
Plan" approved by the (then) Secretary of State in 1973.
The overarching objectives were:
(a) to provide the widest possible range
of opportunity and choice;
(b) to make Warrington a good place in which
to live and grow up;
(c) to facilitate growth and change; and
(d) to carry out the development in a rational
and business-like manner.
The plan had two main tasks:
1. To provide houses, jobs and services
for a new population of 40,000, as well as for the "natural
2. To deal with the problems and needs of
Warrington, as it then existed, in a comprehensive manner, including
the restoration of nearly five square miles of derelict military
From a base population (1973) of approximately
130,000 the target was that this be increased to over 200,000
by 1991, with the potential for the population to reach 225,000
in the longer-term.
The structure of the town, then focussed predominantly
on the Town Centre, would assume a different pattern and become
more diffuse. Five districts would be related to the Transportation
framework and to the distribution of commercial and community
services in their respective centres. One of the Districts would
be what is now referred to as "Inner Warrington", focussed
on the established town centre. Three would be integrated with
established suburban development and one developed from scratch,
largely on the most substantial area of derelict military installations.
The highway network was to be fundamentally
restructured, with new ``expressways'' providing a grid of routes
to accommodate longer trips, including links to the motorways,
freeing the Town Centre and residential areas from through-traffic.
The proposals recognised the (then) growing importance of public
transportation as well as the increase in car ownership. They
would provide conditions within which an efficient bus system
could be operated.
An increase in jobs from 62,700 to 98,100 was
envisaged, with a slight decline in the manufacturing base, but
50 per cent increase in service sector employment. It was recognised
that, over and above this forecast, a further 20,800 manufacturing
or service jobs would have to be created; to reflect continuation
of Warrington's role as a centre of employment for the immediate
Five new employment areas were planned, with
other service employment to be associated with the Town Centre
and District Centres. It was hoped that some of the sites would
be suitable for establishing out-of-city offices and research
Rented housing would be integrated with owner-occupied
housing, with great importance placed on improving standards of
landscape and layout.
A system of linear parks was proposed along
waterways to provide settings for larger public parks. District
Parks of at least 50 acres would accommodate most formal team
sports and provide large informal park areas. These would be complemented
by local parks.
The New Town project was to be driven through
a Partnership arrangement between the Development Corporation
and the Local Authorities. Warrington County Borough Council,
Warrington & Runcorn Rural District Councils, and Lancashire
& Cheshire County Councils held various levels of responsibility
for providing services within the New Town area in 1973. From
1974, and throughout the greater part of the New Towns' ``induced''
growth period, responsibilities were shared by Cheshire County
Council and Warrington Borough Council (then as a ``shire district''
Authority within the ``new'' Cheshire area). Since 1998, the whole
of the former New Town area has been included within the area
of the Warrington Unitary Authority, which shares with Halton
the distinction of exercising Unitary Development Plan powers.
Q.2 Which of those objectives do you think have
This question has been addressed from a range
of perspectives, as follows:
A large number of the stated objectives have
been met; notably, under the headings (a to d), as set out at
Opportunity and choice
Industry of all kinds has been attracted,
including that employing women, eg call centres; women returners
The mix of industries attracted is
probably at the fore of what could have been expected and ahead
of shifts in sectoral growth regionally, if not nationally.
Outside organisations have been attracted
in good numbers.
Birchwood; the ``new'' district created
largely from derelict and contaminated land, was developed as
a science base.
Shops in district and town centres
do work and offer a choice, although the effect of "out-of-town"
retailing, which has been attracted to the expansion areas close
to the motorways, was perhaps not envisaged in 1973.
A good place to live in
Most residents would view the town
as a good place to live, as indicated by the above-average rate
of house-price increases over the years.
As regards the aim to progressively
reduce congestion, the level of congestion is, perhaps, not as
great as in other (economically successful) areas. In its early
Local Transport Plans, the Council has, however, properly promoted
integrated transport initiatives to tackle the problem.
The aim of using "natural breaks"
in developed areas to accommodate expressways has worked well
where those routes have been provided (N.B. A considerable portion
of the planned network has not been implemented).
Successful regeneration of much of
the legacy of previously derelict land has been achieved, particularly
in the Birchwood and Westbrook (former air base) areas, which
no longer give the impression of having once been derelict.
Although some eyesores still remain,
they are not dominant. Strong regeneration-based plans are needed
for areas on the fringe of the town centre, which were outside
the main foci of New Town activity.
Changes in attitudes and lifestyle
generally have created a momentum for eradication of pollution,
which was an aim of the Outline Plan.
Measures have been taken to secure
the town's built environmental heritage although there are some
"hidden gems" that should be rediscovered and their
continued protection ensured.
Overall, whilst the "new character"
of Warrington has not been fully established, it is most certainly
not subject to the fairly negative perceptions that affect some
Growth and change
Warrington is successful by most
economic measures; above average wage rates being the exception
in the past, but now very much on the increase.
Overall, the planned transformation of the transport
and highway network is perhaps the area in which work is unfinished,
although the growth in road-use has probably exceeded 1973-based
There is also the issue as to how the success
of the New Town can be apportioned between English Partnerships
and the former Development Corporation/CNT, and the extent to
which the commercial market would have associated Warrington's
development in any event.
The following proposed actions, supporting objectives
a to d (as set out) can be said to have been successfully carried
Opportunity and choice
Provision of owner-occupied housing
in new districts and ``older'' housing areas.
Enabling of purchase of Council houses
and making them more saleable.
Positively impacting on the needs
of the elderly and the young.
Provision of adequate schools to
meet demands of new development and provide choice.
Meeting demand for formal and informal
Provision of recreational facilities
for minority pursuits.
Provision of a choice of modes of
transport, but continuing weakness in provision for pedestrians
and for the elderly and disabled.
A good place to live in
Development of parkways and good
quality landscaping of "expressways" (a term not now
applied to routes which are intended to provide a broader Transportation
Achieving a balance between man-made
and natural environments.
Creation of diversity of character
in new developments.
Improving standards of private housing.
Growth and change
Growth and change have been properly
Development in a balanced way.
Rational use of resources
Good level of achievement of dual
use of social and educational facilities.
Balanced distribution of land uses
throughout the town.
Instances of objectives which are not perceived
as having been met fully from a regeneration standpoint, include:
development of communications to
facilitate wider choice of access to goods and services;
provision of local alternatives to
regional open space and recreation facilities;
exclusion of extraneous traffic from
neighbourhoods within the established parts of Warrington (progress
being made now, led by the Council's LTP);
reducing traffic speeds in the interests
of pedestrian safety and creating what are termed as "safe
routes to school (both of which are now LTP-led priorities, resulting
in positive measures being implemented)"; and
ensuring schools, shopping and services
are provided concurrently with residential development.
(c) Strategic and Environmental Planning
The New Town provided houses, jobs
and services for a considerable proportion of the 40,000 ``new''
people expected to be attracted to Warrington. There was, however,
a major change of direction around 1980, when the Development
Corporation took a lead from the incoming Government, by changing
to a largely owner-occupied based housing strategy. The New Town's
population had reached only an estimated 158,770 by the year 2000;
still more than 40,000 below the 1991 target figure.
There is now likely to be only marginal
additional new growth of that figure for two key reasons:
(i) The emerging "sustainability"-led
Regional Planning Strategy will focus development largely in the
conurbation cores, effectively confirming the reversal of the
trend which provided much of the raison d'etre for the New Towns
in the region designated in the 1960s.
(ii) 1973-based ambitions of re-shaping Inner
Warrington, through provision of higher-density modern housing
were largely un-fulfilled (though there are indicators of a belated
partial fulfilment of that objective in the present "post-New
Town" era). The ``ultimate'' capacity of the Designated Area
will thus be much reduced in relation to the 1973 Scenario. This
has been compounded by recognition of the fact that much of the
open land around the built-up area which had been allocated for
development, is now perceived by the Council and constituent communities
as an unacceptable location for built development, particularly
in terms of impact on amenity. This has already been reflected
in submissions to the Secretary of State for a continuing reduction
in the rate of development in the Borough as a whole, and in ``safeguarding''
policies in the Council's emerging UDP.
The town centre has "survived"
as the accepted core of community activity within the New Town,
whilst the District Centres have become established generally
in a way which allows them to serve their districts without undermining
the primacy of the town centre. But the Council is vigilant in
ensuring that the town centre maintains and enhances this role,
in the face of competition from new forms and locations of retail
provision which have been introduced to the sub-region outside
the context of the New Town Plan.
The formerly-termed "expressway
network" has only been partially implemented, leaving a legacy
of increased pressures on established radial routes in the urban
area. The Council is now left with the task of developing an integrated
transport system not envisaged in 1973 but using the partially
completed ``grid system'' introduced through the New Town Plan,
as one of its building blocks.
As regards provision and enhancement
of open space and recreational facilities, the transformation
of the previously unexceptional environment along watercourses
into maturing, high-quality recreational and amenity land has
been a recognised major success of the New Town project. The difficulties
of ensuring provision of like quality in Inner Warrington have
not been fully overcome. Provision of District and Local Parks
in the main ``expansion'' areas has been made in accordance with
the Outline Plan's objectives. Specific intentions to invest in
equivalent provision in areas accessible to established suburban
areas which were to be expanded as part of the New Town Plan,
have remained unfulfilled.
As an overview, it is clear, with
hindsight, that the objectives for development of the New Town
were "prisoners of their time". For example, notwithstanding
references to the importance of provision for public transport
and pedestrians, there was great stress on the needs of the car
user. The scale of planned investment in a highway network that
would inevitably facilitate increased car use meant that it has
been difficult to adapt quickly to the change of emphasis in favour
of restraint of car use and encouragement of sustainable forms
of transport. There have been consequent difficulties in securing
the evolution of a land-use pattern which helps sustain the drive
for "sustainable development" as currently defined.
The key objectives of raising the profile, image, attractiveness
and quality have, however, been substantially fulfilled. Its development
has, in reasonable measure, been shaped by the pre-existence of
a substantial ``core'' community, and is perceived as not having
been as ``brutal'' as in some New Towns. Its roads are not as
intrusive and divisive as in other New Towns, and the design and
quality of its built development have been to a generally high
Q.3 What do you consider to be its role
in the region/sub-region in the future?
Warrington's uniquely advantageous
location and the momentum of New Town-led.
Growth will ensure that it should
continue as a focus for inward investment. Particular emphasis
must be placed on its potential to attract high quality science-based
employment taking advantage of, and building further links with
the wide range of Higher Education facilities in the Region.
The town's further physical growth
must, however, be restrained, particularly for local environmental
reasons but also to support the emerging Regional Planning Strategy
which is establishing a regeneration focus, demanding investment
in provision of housing opportunities, particularly in the ``cores''
of the neighbouring conurbations.
Q.4 To what extent is the original Master
Plan for the town still used as a guiding principle for development
It guides development to an increasingly
limited extent. Two of the best examples of why this is the case
(a) Recognition of the need to manage a reduction
in the rate of housing development, with the probability that
many of the remaining undeveloped but previously-allocated ``Greenfield''
areas will remain undeveloped for the foreseeable future. The
Council will need to be satisfied that implementation of these
development schemes can take place according to the current demands
for sustainable development and in accordance with Planning Policy
Guidance (notably PPG3, in association with other PPGs, such as
(b) Abandonment of plans to complete many
elements of the proposed highway network and continued safeguarding
of only a limited number of routes for schemes which will demonstrably
cater for sustainable modes of transport.
Q.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 the growth of the town?
The continuation of the Town Centre
as the main focus for the whole of the town must have been a force
in favour of integration, in both community terms and in terms
of the maintenance of a reasonably high-level of public transport
There is a distinct contrast between
the overall physical character of ``old'' and ``new''. The ``new''
areas are characterised by relatively low-density development,
a much higher standard of landscaping and a ``modern'' road structure,
in the terms set in the 1970s.
The physically distinct districts
do not act as self-contained communities to the extent that, for
example, many town-wide retail and leisure facilities are located
within single ``New Town'' districts, whilst there is no other
evidence of a "closed" relationship between homes and
jobs within any one district.
The character, layout and land-use
within the ``expansion'' areas will set a major challenge for
achieving sustainable development as now understood, but that
challenge is being met through the UDP and TPP in particular.
There has been a perception for many
years that New Town growth has overwhelmed and distorted the ``natural''
growth limits of the town. This has been reflected in the rate
of growth to be prescribed at the Strategic level; notably through
Regional Planning Guidance. This is however tempered by realisation
of the need to accommodate economic growth in selected ``high
quality'' sectors, for which Warrington is the most suitable location
to serve regional interests.
There is an important medical health
dimension to integration which is not necessarily implied in the
question. The following comments, in that regard, are pertinent.
Over the years, Warrington's health status,
as measured by age-standardised death statistics, has steadily
improved, so that Warrington now lies at or just above the national
average for all causes of death, circulatory diseases and breast
cancer to name a few. This is a notable achievement for a north
west town with Warrington's industrial heritage. Although the
causes of this improvement cannot be ascertained with any certainty,
it is likely to have been influenced by increasing affluence and
a low unemployment rate.
However, areas of the town continue to have
much higher age standardised death statistics. This is true particularly
of seven wards in the centre of the town. There are worrying indications
that inequalities in health may be worsening. For example, for
ischaemic heart disease, four wards have death rates which are
more than 25 per cent less than national rates. In contrast, eight
wards have death rates 25 per cent above national rates; two of
these are over 50 per cent above national rates. A similar picture
is seen for lung cancer and all causes of death. The trend over
the last 10 years is for a widening gap between the seven wards
and the rest of the town.
The prosperity of Warrington has appeared to
have a beneficial effect on the health of the population, but
it is a concern that parts of the town have not benefited equally.
The Council is conscious of a ``Mid-Mersey''
community of interest on planning and development issues and hosts
informal Member-level meetings of a group, of which Halton, St
Helens and Wigan Councils are also Members.
Warrington evidently has a foot in
a number of overlapping sub-regions and seeks to maintain an interest
and, where appropriate active involvement, in key issues arising
within each of the three sub-regions referred to. It does not
have a resolved position as to which particular sub-regional arrangements
it should be party to, should any statutory sub-regional structures
be brought into effect.
Q.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?
Warrington has a well-established
sub-regional role which it strives to maintain and enhance. Regional
centres, other strong sub-regional centres and the Trafford Centre
are easily accessible to those living within Warrington's own
``core'' catchment area. The Council recognises the need to adopt
a proactive approach, in seeking to secure its long-term future
within that hierarchy. Opportunity locations have been identified
within the Town Centre area, for further comparison floorspace,
with the strong desire for, and prospects of attracting a department
store which is seen as a key component of the overall retail mix
that will need to be on offer in the future.
The Council has recently completed
a major environmental improvement scheme to enhance the sector
of the town centre which has fallen behind the quality of the
centre as a whole over recent years. Crucially, the centre is
seen not just as a shopping magnet, and the Council is actively
and successfully promoting a broadening of the appeal to the sub-regional
community eg having completed a new Arts Centre this year.
The Centre is finally beginning to
attract quality housing to its core, with completion of 48 apartments
alongside the Centre's main formal ``Square''. This will hopefully
inspire confidence and is a manifestation of what was (optimistically
at the time) envisaged as the type of initiative that would be
given impetus by the New Town Plan.
Q.11 Can you give some numerical examples
of the problems that have arisen with clawbacks and covenants
in housing, amenity space and other land uses?
No information available on this
Q.12 The Committee has been made aware that
in some cases, clawbacks have 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?
In Warrington, there has not been
a problem in the clawback provision that has made the Right to
Buy receipt marginal or even negative.
Regarding properties sold in 2001/2002
the percentage range of claw back to selling price was from 48
per cent to 72 per cent, with an average of about 60 per cent.
Q.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?
No information available on this
Q.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?
This is impossible to answer for
two reasons. One, it is not possible to provide an assessment
of the value of its outstanding assets and two, there is no evidence
of any exercise having been done to establish the liabilities
caused. The Community Related Assets passed to the Borough with
a package of commercial assets to meet the costs. Also the development
and increased population bring with it additional resources via
Revenue support Grant and Council Tax. It would be wrong to speculate
on how a "balance sheet" of liabilities compared to
New Town assets stacked up but it could be argued that the failure
to deal with traffic issues and the long-term cost of maintaining
extensive green spaces has left problems which will be expensive
for the Borough to resolve.
Q.15 To what extent has English Partnerships
participated in regeneration partnerships in your town?
They have continued to be involved
in "Warrington 2000+" at board level. Although this
is not a regeneration partnership in the traditional model, it
does act as a promotional vehicle to some extent.
They are certainly totally involved
and committed to working in a very effective partnership with
us on the regeneration of Omega.
Q.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?
The most obvious issue here is the
leads and lags in the SSA formulae which relate to population
The SSA formulae are highly dependent
on population figures. The figures used in any year's SSA are
always two years out of date (ie the 2002-03 SSA formulae use
mid 2000 population figures). New Towns tend to experience higher
than average population increases and therefore they lose out
when the calculations are made.
There is a dual penalty here. This
is because the Revenue Support Grant (RSG) takes into account
the Tax Base of a Local Authority. The Tax Base is a measure of
the number of properties in any area paying Council Tax. The higher
the number of properties (the Tax Base) the lower the amount of
RSG for any given SSA. The tax base figures are only one year
out of date (ie the 2002-03 Tax Base is the figure for the number
of properties at November 2001). Because of the rapid development
of New Towns, the Tax Base tends to rise faster than the average.
The result of these two factors is
that New Towns lose out on one year's worth of population growth
through the SSA formulae but that year's increase in the Tax Base
in fact is fed through to RSG and lowers the amount of RSG received.
Q.17 Has the pattern of ownership and CNT/EP's
role had any implications in your ability to develop a housing
strategy for the area?
No. However, there is concern that
planning approvals already held by the CNT, (from 1989 or earlier)
appear to preclude possible re-negotiation to incorporate a commitment
to providing affordable housing. The Council has already indicated
to English Partnerships that, if they seek support from the Council
for continued release of ``Greenfield'' sites with New Towns Act
Section 7(1) Approvals, contrary to strict application of the
PPG3 ``Sequential approach'', agreement to negotiate for affordable
housing which meets a defined social need would be among the prerequisites
of such support.
Q.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?
No response is made to this question.
Q.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?
No analysis is at hand regarding
design issues in relation to crime, specifically regarding the
New Town developments.
The Council has recently published
a comprehensive Community Safety Strategy, which sets out the
design principles to be followed in seeking to bring about reductions
in various categories of crime.
Q.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?
The whole thrust of the Council's
LTP is to promote and invest in sustainable transport, with a
primary aim of reducing dependence on the car. A hierarchical
approach to accommodating various modes of transport is adopted,
whereby use of the private car is the least favoured mode.
The Council's first UDP is evolving
alongside reviews of the LTP and its (First Deposit) Transport
Policies have taken on board all land-use related policies contained
in the LTP. These include policies for guiding the form of new
development, such that it reflects the principles of PPG3 and
Q.21 Have you introduced or planned any
measures to promote mobility schemes targeted at the old or the
Active promotion of "safe routes
to school initiatives" come within this category. These are
promoted within the LTP and UDP and specific schemes are under
Strategic Director of Environment and Regeneration