Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Memoranda

Memorandum by Crawley Borough Council (NT 15)

  The Member of Parliament for Crawley, Laura Moffatt, has kindly brought to the Council's attention the Sub Committee's enquiry into "The New Towns, Their Problems and Future". She has discussed this informally with the Council's Executive. I have been asked to make a submission on behalf of the Borough Council.

  My comments are divided into issues generally affecting Crawley and, more specifically, the Borough Council's relationship with English Partnerships and its landholdings in Crawley, and finally some points are made about social deprivation.


  The points I make are specifically in respect of Crawley, but they would be applicable to the other New Towns, particularly the original towns surrounding London. Crawley and the other New Towns should be encouraged and enabled to fulfil a strong role in their regions. I list below a number of key points.

  New Town boundaries should be adjusted so that the community can decide how and where to grow. Present boundaries at Crawley mean that other bodies, such as the West Sussex County Council, are taking decisions on the strategic location of new development on the west or east of Crawley. On the other hand, decisions on the detailed form and content of developments (notwithstanding that some of these problems may be ameliorated by joint working) are being taken by other District Councils.

  New Towns were grafted onto existing settlement patterns and were in many cases "self contained". As they mature, their role within the surrounding area is changing; and they become centres of employment, of shopping and of community activity. This needs to be reflected in the attitudes and thinking of government and other agencies at all levels, if New Towns are to realise their full potential. As an example, Crawley's town centre may need to grow in order to provide a sustainable regional shopping destination.

  Crawley (and possibly other New Towns) face particular problems as a consequence of their history; skills patterns which might not reflect the character of the surrounding area, a population structure which has (or will have) particular needs, a mix of affordable housing needs, which would be different from surrounding areas. These special characteristics should be recognised in the decisions made by outside agencies.

Chief Executive's Directorate

  New Towns grew rapidly and were planned in the context of society as it was at a particular time—this creates a mix of problems, which need to be recognised as the towns reach maturity. Examples would include an ageing social infrastructure (schools, community facilities, etc), roads and other transport infrastructure, which might not meet modern standards, widespread areas where parking is inadequate for modern needs and where roadside parking results in a degraded environment.


  In common with many, if not most, New Towns, this authority had enjoyed mixed relationships with the Commission for New Towns. They were often challenging to deal with and invariably seemed primarily interested in realising land value from their ownerships, with the consequence that the interests of the community were often insufficiently promoted.

  The Council therefore became somewhat pessimistic about the role of the Commission, and similarly with its successor body, English Partnerships (EP). The Council had always perceived there to be some opportunity to be provided by EP's significant land ownership in the Borough, particularly as a means of facilitating the continued growth of the town, and meeting the needs of the local community. The Council has been working with EP to achieve a better understanding, so that positive benefits can be achieved for the Town from their land ownerships. This would not only have the advantage of recognising their community responsibility but also contribute significantly to enhancing the value of their holdings.

  More recently, this growing partnership has borne significant benefits by EP's supporting this Council's campaign to market the town and the town centre. Beyond this most constructive result, the partnership is at early stages, and members of this Council would wish to observe continued and substantial evidence of the sincerity of EP's commitment to partnership with the Council to secure continued commitment to working with them. There is no reason now to believe this should not be forthcoming.

  In the closing stages of 2001 there was a Government review on the role and remit of EP, to which this Council was invited to contribute. I now reiterate some of the points this Council made at that time. With regard to the Government's wider policies eg town centre regeneration, there have been cases where it is considered that EP have promoted short term commercial interests at the expense of town centre regeneration/development objectives. There has been particular difficulty in securing satisfactory outcomes in relation to a substantial development in the centre of Crawley, Queen's Square, including land part-owned by EP and part-owned by the West Sussex County Council. It is not possible to determine whether the extent to which the difficulties encountered were initiated by West Sussex County Council and/or EP.

  With regard to EP's landholdings, if the review should determine that EP should be wound up and their landholdings dispersed this authority would expect all EP-owned land in the Borough and EP-owned adjacent to, but outside the Borough, to be transferred to Crawley Borough Council ownership. This is particularly important in respect of EP land adjacent to, but outside, the Borough, most notably their substantial landholding in the Horsham District. The original purpose of this acquisition was to facilitate the continued growth of this town; it would seem most appropriate that this objective could be realised through Crawley Borough Council ownership, given the Council's commitment to the community and its continued growth.

  The West Sussex County Council has just published a draft of its new Structure Plan, which the Borough Council has considered. Substantial housing growth around Crawley is envisaged and therefore control by the Borough Council of such strategic land as described immediately above would seem indispensable.


  The Council is delighted that the Sub-Committee is going to look into the question of whether social exclusion in the New Towns is being exacerbated by the current Government approach to regeneration and neighbourhood renewal, which appears not to take cognisance of small pockets of deprivation.

  The 2000 DETR Index of Multiple Deprivation shows that Crawley has three or four wards that have significant levels of deprivation, enough for Sure Start funding to be agreed for the neighbourhood of Broadfield. The Urban Renewal Programme potentially overlooks these pockets and yet, for some domains like education, Crawley can feature in the top 10 per cent of the most deprived wards in the country. The Council would welcome the opportunity for its Local Strategic Partnership to be formally accredited, as this would at least recognise that the local authority had before it a serious task in addressing inequalities and narrowing the gap between the rich and poor in Crawley.

  I hope that you find these comments helpful, if you feel I can help you further, please do not hesitate to contact me.

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