Supplementary memorandum by Basildon District
Council (NT 48(a))
1. The extent to which the original design
is leading to concerns about sustainability, how car dependence
might be reduced and the balance between new development and the
regeneration of older parts. It is easy to look at new towns in
hindsight. The planning of New Towns in the post-war period is
a different context than today. At that time there were two immediate
problems: how to deal with overspill populations and how to rebuild
the national economy. New Towns helped fulfil both functions,
but added to those were new planning techniques and principles.
In the planning of New Towns, at least initially,
planners focussed too much on increasing mobility through encouraging
the use of the motorcar. Whilst this has resulted in generally
a good road network, problems of lack of penetration into estates
for public transport, the cul-de-sac syndrome, poor accessibility
between homes and work for those without cars and excessive dual
carriageways, subways and poor quality pedestrian bridges abound.
Consequently, this had lead to the over-dependence
on the motorcar and reluctance to use other forms of transport
for many. These problems are only now being addressed.
What is crucial for future New Town design is
the right balance. Estates, both residential and commercial, need
to be fully integrated into the public transport network and have
public transport routes integrated into their design. New Towns
can suffer from social isolation within the urban areas, as bus
services, in particular, are routed around the very periphery
of estates rather than through them. With the main employment
areas, college, hospital and leisure facilities all located away
from town centres, this lack of easily accessible public transport
has resulted in many feeling excluded from day-to-day activities
and facilities in the town. Plans are afoot to help address this
balance by relocating the college to Basildon town centre, creating
more employment in the town centre and looking at new development
as a way to secure better transport provision.
Development in New Towns employed the best standards
and architectural practices of the day. It is easy to criticise
now, but the level of redevelopment that has had to take place
on estates so recently built suggests that mistakes were made.
The current raft of government policies and local policies to
be introduced through the new Local Development Frameworks will
provide better guidelines for new development. It will be critical
to set out at the forward planning stage the principles for urban
design within New Towns, and to make better use of detailed master
The old system of Section 7(1) consents under
the New Towns Act and vague New Town Master Plans did not provide
sufficient guidance to ensure that what was developed was sustainable.
It led instead to too much freedom for architects and experimentationunfortunately
it is now down to the residual bodies of the old Development Corporations
(English Partnerships and the local Councils) to put these mistakes
2. Whether social exclusion in New Towns
is being exacerbated by neighbourhood renewal.
The 1991 census showed that the Basildon District
had the largest population of all of the Essex Districts, slightly
larger than that of Southend. The difference between the respective
populations of Basildon and Southend was expected to increase
as a result of Basildon's high birth rate and Southend's high
However, subsequent population projections have
indicated that Basildon's population has plateaued whilst Southend's
population has continued to increase, making it now the largest
District, population-wise in the old County of Essex.
The reason for the apparent stagnation in Basildon's
population has been analysed and is now thought to be due to outward
migration by the older youth of the New Town. Young adults seeking
their independence from the family home cannot find suitable accommodation
in the New Town where the housing mix is predominantly family
units. The situation is compounded by the lack of higher education
in the area, forcing young people to universities elsewhere. This
may be a South Essex issue, where there is no higher education
provision, but consideration must be given within New Towns for
all levels of education to be provided.
In contrast the older towns like Southend contain
many large older houses, which are suitable for conversion into
HMOs. Hence, the high birth rate in Basildon is balanced by the
outward migration of the town's youth. In contrast, the high death
rate in Southend is more than compensated by the inward migration
of youth seeking bedsits etc. The same effect can be seen in Harlow
and its adjacent mature towns, suggesting an inherent problem
in the democratic fabric of New Towns and their ability to retain
This situation results in the New Town losing
its life-blood of young people, with the consequent effect on
the availability of labour and the growth of new businesses from
The Development Corporations offered houses,
jobs, schools and shops in a new place and many were attracted
by this offer and high aspirations. Fifty years later though,
the aspirations of the third generation New Town residents are
to a great extent lower. The evolution to a more traditional demographic
profile takes longer than 50 years.
The social inequities within New Towns are well
documented. In Basildon, the town has some of the most deprived
wards in the UK and areas of considerable prosperity. Even within
the more prosperous wards, however, there are still other social
housing estates hidden within ward statistics that are not recognised
as being in need of additional help. For example the Five Links
estate is hidden in one of the most affluent wards in the DistrictLangdon
3. Issues relating to the organisation and
regulations operating in the New Towns in particular in relation
to English Partnership's control of land supply, the effect of
the transfer to local authorities and the role of local authorities
and NDPB to promote sustainable regeneration.
New Towns have traditionally been publicly funded
through development corporations. The residual interests of these
bodies were passed to either the Commission for the New Towns
(now English Partnerships) or the local authority. In the case
of Basildon, much of the handover took place as areas were developed
or in the mid 1980s with the first Community Related Assets Transfer,
and two subsequent transfers since, and in the early 1990s when
the housing stock was transferred. Employment areas and town centres
were generally sold off to the private sector.
In most instances restrictions have been placed
on the use of land transferred to both the local authorities and
private sectors. Covenants and clawback provisions unrealistically
restrict new development and local regeneration initiatives, in
particular within problem estates where redevelopment is the only
option to improve the local housing stock, and town centres.
Regarding town centres, the method of disposal
of Basildon town centre was cumbersome and has led to long-term
difficulties of multiple land ownership. The Corporation disposed
of Basildon town centre by lot auction in 1987. Different parcels
of land and blocks of commercial premises were sold off individually,
resulting in 16 different landowners. In addition, to manage the
remaining non-commercial assets a non-profiting making limited
company was established, which initially retained the Commission
for the New Towns as its majority shareholder. Land owned by this
company, most of the car parks as well as most of the pedestrian
areas, is also subject to restrictive covenants and clawback provisions.
This is a major obstacle to the company realising the value of
those assets and achieving town centre regeneration.
Furthermore, given the design of town centres,
there is little room for growth and innovative ideas are having
to be explored, such as taking up road space for new development
and the relocation out of town centres of some established users,
such as the post office sorting office and the bus depot. This
adds considerably to development costs, and Basildon consequently
has not seen the same level of private investment in its town
centre as other comparable towns, such as Chelmsford and Milton
The inability for the town centre to expand
has led to a greater concentration of office development in out
of town locations and continued pressure for out of town retail
warehousing and new food storeswhich the Council consistently
These problems have been compounded by the remit
of the former CNT as a land disposal body, rather than a reinvestment
body. It has only been in the last year that English Partnerships
have given greater emphasis towards reinvestment whilst meeting
Treasury targets. The preparation of their Town Strategy for Basildon
is a right step, albeit without any statutory standing. The work
that the Council did with EP on their Strategy, led to a wider
Strategic Development Partnership being established with the DTLR
(via the Thames Gateway Strategic Partnership and GO-East), Thames
Gateway South Essex Partnership and the East of England Development
Agency. This new Partnership sets common objectives and new ways
of joint working and master planning to ensure continued investment
from all partners in the New Town. It also provides legitimacy
for reinvestment from English Partnerships.
4. The role of the New Towns in the regional
New Towns have always acted as drivers for economic
growth. That growth was planned hand in hand with town expansion
and the development leading to the development of significant
employment areas, sub-regional town centres and office decentralisation.
Foreign investment was the main driver of this
growth, which is reflected in Basildon's case, by the establishment
of large multi-national companies. Basildon had a mostly branch
plant economy which did not establish a demand for skilled labour
and is reflected in the current low skills levels in Basildon.
The labour force was moved out from the derelict London Docks
and redeployed within the large industries of Basildon.
During the 1970s there was a slowdown in growth
as the process of de-industrialisation started. There was also
a lack of new investment, from both within the UK and from overseas,
and, consequently, the recession at the beginning of the 1980s
was mainly manufacturing led and hit New Towns hard. Basildon
suffered greatly due to its heavy reliance on foreign owned manufacturing
Since the early 1980s recession, the manufacturing
sector has never gained any substantial growth, although this
was compensated to a certain extent by the growth in the service
In the last 10 years the process of de-industrialisation
has had significant effect on restructuring the local economy
in Basildon. A large number of the multi-national companies have
either closed or down-sized resulting in nearly 6,000 job losses
and has left a low- to semi-skilled work force having to find
new employment in the growing tertiary sector, often in low-paid
and part-time jobs.
The legacy of the concentration of attracting
multi-national investment in the formative years of New Towns
has had the long-term impact of drawing the focus away from supporting
indigenous companies to grow and innovate, and created a lack
of demand of skills from local employers. The lack of employer
demand of minimum skills entry level to the labour market has
resulted in a sustained low skills level amongst the younger population.
In addition, New Towns serve as dormitory overspill
towns around the major conurbations and they have not succeeded,
in economic terms, of developing a local sustainable economy free
from the influence of nearby conurbations. This results in significantly
high levels of out commuting, which not only puts pressure on
the transportation network, but also has resulted in a skills
drain out from the New Towns as residents seek greater employment
prospects and greater salaries elsewhere. This is most prevalent
in the London ring towns, including Basildon.
To again become the driver for economic growth
in the region New Towns must encourage entrepreneurship and innovation
amongst small indigenous companies to drive up the skills demand
from the private sector and enable economic growth.
5. Whether the Government should change
its policy in respect of design, regeneration and social inclusion
in the New Town.
Regarding policies on design, it is felt that
adequate changes have already been made both to best practice
(on urban design, sustainable development, residential layout
etc), and greater support for more detailed master plans as set
out in the Planning Green Paper.
One approach currently being adopted in Basildon
is the Gardiners Lane South Master Plan. English Partnerships,
the principal landowners of the site are the lead agency and have
established a project partnership with the Council, the East of
England Development Agency and Thames Gateway South Essex, to
work collectively in preparing a master plan, and subsequent implementation,
for a new high quality urban business quarter. This approach will
use a master planning workshop in the summer, bringing together
all stakeholders including local residents and the business communities.
Key to the future success of the project, however,
will be down to properly integrated detailed work on the master
plan itself with a feasibility and viability assessment; an implementation
strategy; a transport strategy that looks at not only movement
within the site and immediately adjacent, but at strategic public
transport routes; and a relocation strategy for existing occupiers.
Underpinning all of this is a design-led approach, which will
adopt the latest principles of urban design, streets for people
and sustainable development and set rigid design standards.