Comments of Milton Keynes Council on English
Milton Keynes Council is pleased to have the
opportunity to respond to this review. As the largest of the New
Towns with the largest residue of new town land controlled by
EP, we experience their ex-CNT role. As a borough with not only
an ageing new town infrastructure but also some significant older
urban areas in need of regeneration, we have an interest in their
role in promoting urban renaissance and regeneration. Finally,
as the fastest-growing town in the United Kingdom, we have a particular
interest to ensure that the funding mechanisms managed by EP or
their successors adequately address the costs of the growth that
EP and its predecessors' activities bring. Moreover, with the
MK and South Midlands planning review underway, there is the prospect
of further growth in the future.
2.1 MK's New Town role is the dominant element
in its approach to the EP review, and generates some significant
unmet, and growing needs. To address both sustainable new development,
and urban regeneration in a sustainable way in MK, MKC supports
transferring EP functions into a more locally accountable body.
With or without elements of EP or any successor body, there should
be significant Local Authority involvement. With significant local
and regional accountability, and a brief wider than physical development,
a joint development body would ensure governance that was both
more holistic and more transparent to the citizen. Greater local
sensitivity could ensure that a proportion of local undeveloped
assets could be used to address inherited problems of under-funding,
the needs of further growth and local regeneration needs.
3.1 The review aims are:
"To review the role of English Partnerships
in delivering the Governments' policies; to consider the
future ownership of CNT assets and liabilities, and recommend
such changes as might be necessary in the light of the review.
To consider English Partnerships' structure and processes to ensure
effective and efficient delivery of its remit".
The parts in bold refer to elements of particular
importance to MK.
3.2 Delivering the Governments' Policies
Whilst MK Council generally supports the views
presented jointly by the New Towns Special Interest Group, there
are specific additional points relevant to MK. The continuing
development of MK, and its ongoing review through the MK and South
Midlands Study, are outstanding examples of how prosperous and
sustainable communities can be developed. Past and present Regional
Planning Guidance requires housing growth to be accommodated in
and around MK. The current mechanisms for this, a core part of
EP's role, leave significant deficits outlined below, some inherited
some continuing. Extrapolated to the future, these mechanisms
are unlikely as they stand to provide the coherence outside the
New Town designated area, nor in the wider cross-regional context.
An important measure of how "EP functions" help to deliver
the Government's policies will be around the delivery of the sustainable
future development of the sub-region around MK. This future development
needs to be based on the integration of, inter alia:
Development of sustainable urban
and rural communities.
Transparent and empowered local governance.
Delivery of first class services.
Ensuring Social Inclusion.
Maintaining a separate agency, EP, responsible
for part of only one of those, urban development, is unlikely
to produce the requisite joining-up of government to deliver Government
policies. A new local mechanism, more firmly linked to the fabric
of local and regional governance, would provide the locally sensitive
steer that will be needed to implement future plans for the MK
3.3 CNT assets and liabilities
MK is the product of EP and its predecessor
organisations, CNT and MKDC. Since then demise of MKDC the local
authority has seen a progressive decline in the resource available
to deliver local services in MK. This has been accelerated since
MKC was established in 1997 as a Unitary Authority under Local
Government Reorganisation. As a result of lags in the SSA process,
MK is left with public funding allocations which do not reflect
current liabilities. As a result of development decisions taken
by MKDC, MK is left with an expensive infrastructure whose deficiencies
and degeneration, accelerated by the pattern of development pursued,
represents a significant and growing liability. Whilst MK may
contain a significant proportion of CNT assets, in the form of
900 Hectares of prime, serviced development land, it also represents
a very significant body of CNT liabilities. Present funding mechanisms
do not enable EP's asset base in MK to be used to meet the inherited
liabilities in MK as outlined in previous representations to Government.
A review of EP's structure and processes is an opportunity to
identify a way of better linking inherited assets and liabilities.
3.4 Effective and efficient delivery
Seen on a regional or national scale, the importance
of MK rests on its potential as a sustainable and planned community
with significant scope for further growth into the foreseeable
future. the under-funding of local services is endemic, and affects
Police, Fire, Health and other partner agencies as well as the
local authority. The development of MK will not be shown to be
in any sense sustainable if the inherited deficits are not addressed.
If they can be, MK can be an exemplar for promoting sustainable
urban development. This can include, inter alia:
Introduction of higher densities
on appropriate sites within the city's urban envelope.
Re-working inherited development
schemes on the West and East Flanks and outside the designated
Promoting a sub-regional network
of neighbouring towns and settlements as part of the inter-regional
Transformation of the City Centre
of Milton Keynes.
Integration and regeneration of the
older towns within the new settlement.
The review of "EP functions" should
allow for the promotion and pursuit of excellence and Best Practice
in urban development, but also the integration of all the related
elements of governance that go to make up sustainable and prosperous
urban communities. The effective and efficient delivery of this
must include a significant role for local democracy and accountability,
unlikely to be provided through current organisational arrangements.
4. WHAT MK NEEDS
4.1 MK broadly supports the general conclusions
of the NTSIG local authorities
Local authorities are best placed
to regenerate former New Towns.
English Partnerships, as a nationally
directed organisation, is not sensitive enough to local needs
Local authorities with substantial
English Partnerships land holdings in their boundaries are discriminated
against as they
Cannot realise the value of the assets
or borrow against their income streams to provide additional finance
to regenerate the New Towns.
Cannot generate benefits through
Section 106 agreements to negotiate deals to benefit local communities
or planning fee income.
Lose control over the growth of large
areas of the New Towns.
Planning powers should be transferred
from English Partnerships to the local authorities.
Local authorities should inherit
the titles to all English Partnership's interests without their
claw back or covenant agreements. Land currently held with claw
back arrangements in place should cease to be so;
English Partnership has failed to
engage local communities and suffers from a democratic deficit;
The Government needs to take a longer-term
view on the growth and sustainability of New Towns, many of which
now require regeneration input;
Population increases must be better
reflected in the Government's statistics to ensure that the population
lag is minimised. This will ensure that growing local authorites
will not be discriminated against through SSA allocations.
Key Problems and recommendations identified by NTSIG
|Issue to be resolved
||Key recommended options
|Sustainable development and regeneration
||||To contribute to the sustainable development and regeneration of the New Towns;
|||Recycling of capital receipts from CNT land asset sales into local regeneration projects;
|||Ensure Government agencies work with local authorities in developing strategies;
|||Additional revenue streams are required to help finance development and regeneration.
|Access to resources||
||Access for local authorities or LSPs to English Partnerships' assets;
|||Recycling of receipts back into the locality.
||English Partnership should be working in partnership with local authorities and local communities;
|||English Partnerships should have direct deocratic inputs;
|||English Partnerships should not operate outside the normal planning system;
|||English partnerships should not be operating in Wales.
|Cost of growth||||RSG formula should be reviewed
|Research||||Provision of a national research agency may be beneficial to local and regional structures
|||Local authorities should have the capacity and resources to buy-in specialist expertise or acquire the necessary skills in-house.
|Planning||||Transfer all planning powers held by English Partnerships to local authorites, firstly to streamline planning arrangements and secondly to ensure democratic accountability;
|||Permit local authorities to gain the benefits of planning fees and utilisation of Section 106 agreements.
4.2 Given the scale of the development task still proceeding
in MK, MKC recognises that it may still need a significant external
partner, at least for a transitional period of time. This particularly
applies in relation to implementation of any development recommendations
that may flow from the MK and South Midlands Study. Any such partner,
however, must be an integral part of the local structure of governance,
and must be accountable locally. EP does not provide that accountability.
A collaboration with SEERA could provide that accountability.
It would also provide a regional basis, assuming joint working
between RDAs and Regional Planning Bodies, for progressing the
outcome of the Milton Keynes & South Midlands Study.
4.3 MKC recognises that under current arrangements the
Treasury benefits from disposal and realisation of CNT assets,
and that these receipts indirectly fund redistributive programmes
elsewhere in the UK. Currently these assets do not meet the continuing
liabilities inherited from MKDC and borne by the local authority.
Though the assets should under revised arrangements transfer to
a locally accountable body, and should directly assist with these
inherited liabilities, MKC recognises that a proportion may still
need to be contributed to national programmes elsewhere, within
or outside the region. MKC also notes that, provided the area's
economic success continues, it is likely under current arrangements
to continue to be a net contributor through the NNDR.
4.4 To manage the scale of development envisaged within
and around MK, at least up to 2011 and probably throughout the
20-30 year period of the Milton Keynes & South Midlands Study,
MKC would support a local joint development body. This would be
charged with implementing currently planned development and any
future proposals set out in Regional Planning guidance, and with
taking a holistic view to securing an overall sustainable community
supported by adequate funding arrangements. EP's current brief
is too property-oriented to deliver that approach. it would include
representation from MKC, to ensure a continuing community involvement,
almost entirely absent from current EP arrangements. It would
include representation from the RDA, to ensure that the Government's
regional agendas were properly addressed. The balance of membership
could be drawn from other stakeholders, including business and
the Local Strategic Partnership. It could draw on urban development
expertise that might still be provided by a national body, a possible
residual role for part of EP.
5.1 There is broad agreement across Milton Keynes Council
that present arrangements do not adequately reflect the needs
of partnership-based local governance, sensitive to local needs
and transparent for local citizens. Not do they meet the resource
needs of creating and maintaining a maturing community, supporting
the private and public investment made 30 years. EP in its present
form, though much of what it does is to a high standard and well-resourced,
does not meet local aspirations. Arguably neither does it meet
central government aspirations for sustainable communities able
to support excellent services and continuing economic success
into the future. There is a very strong case for a locally-based
organisation, involving a range of stakeholders and accountable
to the locality, to manage the future development of Milton Keynes.
This would replace or incorporate much of EP's current activity
in the area. It could also offer a significant local role for
the Regional Development Agency.