Memorandum by David Wright MP (Telford
Constituency) (NT 18)
Telford New Town was designated in 1968 following
the expansion of the Dawley New Town initiative. The project focused
on two key themes. Firstly, the drawing together of a series of
towns and communities located on the east Shropshire coalfield
with the aim of reviving the faltering local economy. Secondly,
the creation of new residential estates and facilities for people
moving out of poor housing conditions in the Black Country. These
two objectives resulted in massive public and private sector investment
and the delivery of one of the largest land reclamation projects
ever undertaken in Europe. It has taken over thirty years for
the communities of Telford to properly gel together, and even
now most of the older towns still have their own identities and
The term "new town" is of course now
inappropriate when referring to communities such as Telford. The
phrase tends to conjure up an image of a town where large-scale
investment has recently taken place and consequently the problems
of urban living have been banished forever. That, of course, is
not the case.
The Committee requested that evidence focused
on some key areas and questions, this submission is tailored accordingly.
Much of the initial infrastructure in Telford,
which was built quickly to create the town, is reaching the end
of its investment life. The design principles adopted in many
of the new estates were focused on low density and the segregation
of residential and industrial/commercial uses.
The use of Radburn design layouts in the housing
areas in the south of the town has led to major management problems.
There are large zones of unkempt open space and many residential
areas have no real identity or defining landscape features. The
accommodation itself was often poorly built. The local centres
constructed to serve these communities are poorly designed with
large areas of uncontrolled public space. The facilities were
constructed all in one phase and now look very dated. There is
also a shakeout of any diversity in shopping provision due to
the dominant role of the Telford Shopping Centre. In general there
is no recognizable street structure in areas such as Woodside
and Sutton Hill and the housing stock, which was built quickly
and cheaply, has fallen into significant disrepair.
There are a number of particularly problematic
local neighbourhoods in terms of housing design and layout. The
"Courts" area on Woodside is one such example where
a large number of deck access properties, in mixed ownership,
are being progressively abandoned due to disrepair and their poor
design. Criminal activity in the area is extensive, particularly
burglary and drug dealing. At present the local authority is working
hard with the community to assemble a strategy to clear the properties
but it is very difficult to assemble resources to tackle the problem,
this is covered in more detail below.
Alongside these newer areas are the older communities
which pre-date Telford, such as Dawley, Madeley and Oakengates.
These areas have a more traditional town layout but the infrastructure
is dated and is in need of significant investment. The local shopping
centres have been badly affected by the Telford Shopping Centre
and many will need to change their role with the reintroduction
of residential uses into areas formerly dominated by retail uses.
This process will require the extensive re-modelling of these
smaller centres and this will need significant public and private
sector investment through partnership vehicles.
The Telford Shopping Centre is an extremely
successful out of town style retail centre built in the middle
of the town. At present it does not operate as a town centre as
intended in the original new town concept. The centre closes down
at 5.30 pm and does not provide any night time economy of merit.
The collection of buildings in the area is architecturally poor
and the site provides no significant landmark buildings. The local
authority has developed a major town centre redevelopment proposal
to tackle these issues but is finding it difficult to resource
3. SOCIAL EXCLUSION
Telford does not fall within the priority areas
currently identified by government for urban renewal activity.
This causes a major problem because there are a number of wards
in the town which exhibit high levels of deprivation. Three wards
are in the 10 per cent most deprived in England and a further
3 are in the 15 per cent most deprived. If these wards were in
any other town they would immediately be targeted for regeneration
activity. The structure of the town means that certain estates
can be clearly identified as regeneration priorities but no central
Government support can be currently accessed. It is extremely
difficult to explain to communities in these areas that they do
not qualify for support.
The economy in Telford has for a number of years
been based on low waged and largely un-unionised labour. There
is also a significant element of part time and agency-based employment.
This has left many people with little or no resource to invest
in their homes, particularly those in marginal owner occupation.
The RTB disposal policies pursued by Telford Development Corporation
in its closing years has left a major problem with many low income
households living in poorly built homes on badly designed estates.
The availability of facilities for young people
on large estates is limited and expectations are also low. Anti-social
behaviour is a major problem across the town and this is exacerbated
by the design of many estates.
In many large urban areas the local authority
can utilize land assets to drive forward regeneration. Unfortunately
this is not possible in Telford due to the transfer of Commission
for New Town assets to English Partnerships. Consequently there
is the dual regeneration problem of a lack of community assets
and no access to mainstream regeneration funding. The scale of
resources available from other Government agencies, such as the
Housing Corporation, is not large enough to enable comprehensive
housing led initiatives to be constructed. At present the strategy
of Advantage West Midlands is to steer resources into Regeneration
Zones focused on the conurbation. Once again resources are therefore
not available to assist in a number of deprived wards in Telford.
Ironically these wards would be prioritized if transplanted into
Sandwell or Birmingham, the very areas that many people moved
away from for a better start some thirty years ago.
A failure to address these issues now will result
in a massive future regeneration bill. We need to invest now to
sustain Telford and save resources in the future.
4. ENGLISH PARTNERSHIPS
At present English Partnerships are under review
and this was the subject of a debate recently in Westminster Hall.
The land holding of EP generates the following problems in Telford:
Financial clawback which mitigates
against the development of regeneration initiatives;
Lack of local authority land holdings
to pump prime regeneration initiatives;
Inability to use Section 106 agreements
in relation to EP land;
No planning fee income for the local
authority who work on EP projects;
At present EP contribute significantly to Treasury
coffers through the disposal of sites in Telford. EP do provide
support to a number of projects in Telford, but this is secured
through difficult negotiation. It would appear that the structure
of re-investment in coalfield areas is different to that in new
towns, some normalization would be helpful.
An effective Local Strategic Partnership is
in place in Telford and they should lead the regeneration of the
town. The assets of EP should therefore be handed over to the
local partnership for deployment on agreed regeneration priorities.
The handing over of EP assets to Advantage West Midlands would
not be supported locally and would mean that resources are diverted
to the conurbation area and will not secure the regeneration of
The housing problems identified in south Telford
are significant. Existing mechanisms for intervention cannot deliver
significant change and Telford is excluded from regeneration programmes.
A comprehensive approach to renewal of the local housing market
is needed linked to a holistic wider regeneration strategy. A
south Telford "Housing Market Renewal Area" is needed.
Due to the effective engagement of a range of partners in the
town a delivery vehicle can be easily assembled to deliver a Housing
Market Renewal Area. This would involve the local authority, English
Partnerships (if retained), Wrekin Housing Trust, the Housing
Corporation and the local community.
6. THE ROLE
Telford has been an engine of economic growth
in the West Midlands over recent years. It can continue to perform
that role in terms of land availability for industrial and residential
The construction of the M54 in the early 1980's,
coupled with Regeneration Zone status, led to major growth in
the Telford economy. This growth was sustained when other areas
were in severe decline.
Today the Telford Campus of Wolverhampton University
provides a major research and development asset for the town and
Technology Corridor status linked to the conurbation is critical.
Major growth will need to be prompted through regional support
in order to counter a loss of jobs in the local manufacturing
sector in recent years. The ongoing development of the plastics/polymer
technology business will be important for the town.
The location of the town, in the west of the
region, means that transport links are particularly problematic.
Congestion on the motorway network through the West Midlands is
a significant problem. Rail service links to the conurbation and
through to London are also somewhat erratic in terms of delivery.
The town should be considered alongside the
conurbation when investment to promote urban renaissance is put
in place. The town can provide a focal point for high quality
new housing development, with a concentration on higher density
schemes. The inevitable clearance of poorly designed and constructed
new town estates will require mixed tenure redevelopment projects
to be developed, this is not possible without greater control
over land disposal activity and partnership working with developers,
RSL's and the Housing Corporation.
A number of key changes are required in Government
strategy in relation to new towns, they can be summarized as follows:
1. Development of regeneration strategies
for each of the new towns with access to Neighbourhood Renewal
2. Creation of a Housing Market Renewal Area,
with regeneration linkages, in south Telford to tackle the design
and disrepair problems across the area (with the potential to
develop a pilot initiative that could be applied in other towns);
3. Normalisation of arrangements in relation
to the land holdings of EP with assets passed to the local authority;
4. Deployment of RDA resources tailored to
the needs of each new town;
5. Investment in the quality and design of
major, and local, shopping centres, including resources for CCTV,
through a Town Centre Design Fund;
6. Availability of Home Office funding to
design out crime on Radburn housing estates.
The Government has the opportunity to spend
to save in relation to the new towns. If we do not pick up the
issues outlined above we will have to return in a number of years
when the problems are more deep seated and the solutions far more
expensive to deliver.