Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Memoranda

Memorandum by Wellington Civic Society (NT 03)

  Wellington Civic Society was formed in 1978 and has monitored conditions in and around Wellington for 24 years. Our members have observed the new town since its beginnings in Dawley in 1963. We have published 24 local books on Wellington, Shropshire, Telford and The Wrekin County. We have supported—and opposed—the district council and Telford Development Corporation (TDC) at public inquiries and led a successful campaign for parish councils within the designated area. We regard it as our function to promote our town and make helpful suggestions to all authorities.

  Wellington is a mature market town, well over 1,000 years old and the most populous town/parish in The Wrekin. Traditionally and for several centuries, it served the mining/industrial areas to the east and the agricultural and forested lands west, north and south. Its commercial heart has been seriously disadvantaged by subsidised developments in Telford centre and by policies aimed at downgrading the traditional communities to concentrate on development at the new centre. These policies, unfortunately, are still in operation and frustrate our efforts.

  Wellington's urban regeneration is urgently needed. A town partnership, of which we are core/founder members, was set up nine years ago but our cash-strapped Telford & Wrekin Council is unable this year to provide £1,500 to help finance the Town Coordinator, due to a perceived priority to put right TDC mistakes, blunders and incompetence in other parts of the area. We are incensed.

  Since the 1960s overall control of development planning has vacillated, often based on outdated academic concepts, discredited before their introduction. Local knowledge was constantly, arrogantly ignored and sneered at. "Experts" knew best. Due to lack of control some work resulted in expensive jerry-building. All this must be put right, but at whose expense? Money is coming from land profits, enough to pay for past mistakes, but is not available to help.

  Telford's reputation for crime, debt, poverty and social deprivation operates against communities within the designated area to our disadvantage. Its name, like its plans, was imposed against advice with scant regard for its communities. No wonder we prefer to be Wellington, The Wrekin.

  Our inner ring road, planned long before the new town, was held back, then built by TDC with mistaken priorities. It has been improved using local understanding but not at the expense of the perpetrators. The bypass/motorway (M54), planned in 1950s, held back, then incompetently built and needing constant repair is a similar case.

  The north of our town, at Shawbirch, was acquired and developed by TDC, land being sold at a huge profit for private building. The pressing need here is for public transport and contributions to our town centre regeneration. The precursor authority, Wellington UDC, bought land at Dothill for development, which was inherited by the present authority but profits were diverted to other areas outside Wellington.

  There is a large brownfield site suitable for light industrial "starter" industries. With no industry at all in the town now, this should be developed but finance is needed.

  TDC persuaded most of the major commercial firms in Wellington and the other mature towns to relocate in their "town centre", often offering financial benefits. This deliberately downgraded our town, not only by the loss of large businesses but also by enticing customers away from the remaining shops and offices. No wonder we need regeneration.

  It is good to see government at last willing to listen and pay attention to the problems caused by new town developments involving mature communities. Wellington has suffered too long from decisions made with arrogant disregard for local conditions and people. We hope the inquiry will lead to more enlightened central and local government policies.

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Prepared 16 April 2002