Memorandum by West Lothian Council (NT
1. West Lothian Council has been requested
by the Urban Affairs Sub Committee to respond to the inquiry into
"The New Towns: their problems and future". In doing
so, reference is made to the March 2002 submission from the New
2. Initially, we would highlight that there
are two fundamental differences between the position of Scottish
and English New Towns. Following the wind up of new towns in Scotland,
assets were vested with the local authorities. In England, assets
were passed to English Partnerships. Secondly, Scottish local
authorities have full planning powers in the new towns. This does
not appear to be the case in England.
3. In Scotland, wind-up of the five new
town development corporations took place over three years with
their assets being vested with the relevant local authorities.
West Lothian Council inherited the assets of Livingston Development
Corporation at wind-up in March 1997. Significant efforts were
made to ensure that any residual matters at March 1997 were kept
to a minimum. In any case, the primary vehicle for dealing with
these matters was to be the local authority.
4. We agree with the concept of New Towns
as outlined in the papers and accept the principle that New Towns
should be "normalised". Indeed, in the case of Scottish
new towns this has already happened in that former new towns are
a part of their respective local authorities. In the case of Livingston,
it was always envisaged that it would be the main sub-regional
centre within the Lothians, second only in size to Edinburgh.
5. We do not recognise the comments about
significant problems which now exist in the new towns. Undoubtedly
there are particular issues given their relatively short history
but no worse than in many other communities in Scotland and some
of our issues are noted in subsequent paragraphs. Generally, in
the case of Livingston, particularly in the last six years with
the extensions to the Almondvale shopping centre, the opening
of the McArthur Glen Designer Outlet Centre, the rise of Livingston
Football Team and growth of leisure facilities, Livingston has
in its own right become a much more mature and successful community.
In terms of its location, it has many advantages for the business
and commercial community and also for Livingston residents in
easy access to any other part of the country. The transport infrastructure
admittedly needs to be further developed, but significant strides
have already been made over the last 10 years. In the context
of the broader Edinburgh housing market, Livingston is now very
much seen as an attractive proposition for house purchase and
this will continue to develop as the council develops its policies
and proposals detailed in the Lothian Structure Plan and the associated
20/20 Vision concept.
6. Contrary to some of the points made in
the submissions, Livingston does not have a significant number
of houses in need of regeneration nor does it suffer from poor
urban design and housing layout. There are some concerns over
footpath networks and public transport arrangements, but these
are relatively minor and with comparatively small levels of investment
could be significantly improved.
7. A negative aspect of Livingston new town
wind up was the loss of substantial Scottish Office funds which
went into the promotion and development of the New Town. This
funding was not replaced, despite the fact that the town had not
reached its target population. The activities of West Lothian
Council compensated to some extent but government investment for
promotion and growth was lost.
8. Livingston was designed for car use and
the roads and lighting infrastructure created now needs substantial
maintenance. Most was built at the same time and requires investment
now. Again, additional grant funds are needed in addition to the
routine maintenance which the endowment was meant to cover.
9. There are significant points made in
the submission from the New Towns Group relating to covenants
and claw-back arrangements inhibiting development within new towns
in that these matters are dealt with by English Partnerships.
West Lothian Council faces similar issues with the Scottish Executive
on the debt redemption rules on disposal of housing assets.
10. The New Towns Group appear to be lobbying
for "normalisaton" for their new towns. West Lothian
Council has issues about facilities, transportation and infrastructure
in Livingston but we can report significant progress and remain
optimistic about the continued beneficial development of the town.
We would agree that "responsible local authorities are the
best-placed organisations to lead and regenerate new towns".