Supplementary memorandum by North Lancashire
District Council (NT 08(a))
1. The original objective of Skelmersdale
New Town was to accommodate the overspill population from Liverpool,
which was one of the most congested cities outside London. The
need for a new town to serve this objective was recognised as
early as 1956 when the Lancashire Development Plan proposed Skelmersdale
as a suitable location.
By 1961 a re-housing programme and out migration
had helped to relieve some of the congestion in Liverpool, but
there were still 80,000 slum or obsolescent dwellings in the city.
The mandate for the creation of Skelmersdale
in October 1961 was to develop a self-contained new town with
a population of about 80,000.
2. The creation of Skelmersdale clearly
did help to relieve some of the population pressure in Liverpool,
although the objective of accommodating 80,000 people has not
been realised. This target population was reduced in scale in
any case, due to changes in population and dispersal policies.
3. Skelmersdale, in particular, has a role
within the sub-region as a Regeneration Priority Area, where faster
rates of development of business and industrial land need to be
achieved to attract further investment and strengthen local economic
activity. It is identified as such in the emerging Lancashire
Structure Plan and is already designated as a Main Urban Area
in the current Structure Plan. This echoes the role of the Town
within the Mersey Belt as a focus of regeneration activity.
It is anticipated that Skelmersdale will also
provide a location for new housing, again as recognition of its
role within the Mersey Belt, through the strategic policies set
out in the emerging Structure Plan.
4. The Basic Plan is no longer used as a
guiding principle for development in the Town. This has now been
superseded by local plans, the last of which (the West Lancashire
Local Plan) was adopted in 1999. The pattern and extent of development,
however, is not too dissimilar to that set out in the Basic Plan,
although there are a few exceptions.
5. Generally, there has been a good integration
of the old and new parts of the Town. The main shopping centre
serves as a focus for the Town, and the process of integration
has been aided by the fact that there was no main shopping centre
in ``Old Skelmersdale'' (although there was a local centre at
Sandy Lane) and that the old part of the town was spatially spread
out and not self-contained.
6. The original population target for Skelmersdale
New Town was about 80,000. (The Basic Plan also incorporated an
alternative plan which extended the boundaries of the town to
the north and at the industrial areas of Pimbo and Stormy Corner
(Stanley) in order to accommodate a further 10,000 population
and their employment needs. In the event, this expansion plan
was never needed although in 1969 the Pimbo industrial area was
Following the Government's Review of the New
Town Programme in 1978, Skelmersdale's target population was reduced
to 61,000. Changes in population and dispersal policies had rendered
the original target population of 80,000 invalid.
In 1981, the population of the designated Skelmersdale
New Town was 39,404; by the time of the next Census (1991) it
was estimated to be 39,660. No up-to-date estimates are available
for the designated area of the former new town, although the 1998
ward estimates (as prepared by Oxford University) indicate a population
of 44,100 for the whole of Skelmersdale/Up Holland (37,100 for
just the six wards of Skelmersdale). A population target was ultimately
dropped prior to the dissolution of the New Town.
The original population target for the Town
will never be achieved. The rate of growth for housing and employment
in the Town is now considered in the context of the strategic
targets set through Regional Planning Guidance and the Lancashire
7. The 1984 Population and Social Survey
(carried out by Skelmersdale Development Corporation) indicated
that 74 per cent of households who had moved to the town after
1963 came from Merseysidea reflection of the original objective
of the New Town. An Industrial Selection Register, established
by the Ministry of Labour enabled industry to recruit primarily
from tenants of the "sending authorities" or those on
the housing waiting lists. These, together with key workers became
the first priority category for Development Corporation housing.
Skelmersdale's initial rate of growth and the Merseyside origin
of a large proportion of its population were largely responsible
for its distinctive population characteristics. In 1981 31 per
cent of its resident population was aged 0-15 compared with the
national average of only 22.3 per cent whilst 9 per cent were
of pensionable age compared with 17.7 per cent nationally. These
differences were also reflected during the 1991 Census albeit
to a slightly lesser degree. The latest available estimates for
the wards of Skelmersdale (mid 1998) also reveal higher proportions
of children in each of the six wards compared to Great Britain.
(See tables set out in Appendix 1).
8. A range of vacant facilities exist within
Skelmersdale, primarily in the established industrial areas. SRB
monies have improved some vacant premises and resulted in their
take-up, although certain long-term vacancies remain.
Approximately 84 per cent of the current local
plan employment allocations lie within Skelmersdale. This reflects
its strategic advantages over other settlements within the District
and its designation as a Main Urban Area in the Structure Plan.
The town has excellent links to the national road network; offers
a range of brownfield and greenfield sites; lies close to potential
workforces and has the capability of providing for clusters of
hi-tech, telecoms and the ``emerging'' industries.
The town has seen a steady level of industrial
land take-up (3.7 Ha per annum over the last 10 years) which is
likely to continue. As a result of rapid take-up in the early
years of the Local Plan a 48 hectare greenfield site was allocated
as an extension to the existing Stanley Industrial Estate, this
has strong potential for attracting new and developing industries.
Demand currently appears to be particularly strong for smaller
industrial sites. Unfortunately some expansions of firms already
located in Skelmersdale have been put on hold during the current
manufacturing economic downturn.
Skelmersdale has little direct effect on other
towns in the District as it predominantly caters for the manufacturing
end of commercial activities. The town often provides opportunities
for expanding businesses which out grow existing accommodation
in the more restricted settlements in the locality. Its ``new
town'' characteristics mean there are few comparable areas offering
the same range of opportunities in the area.
9. In terms of strategic planning, the sub-regional
planning arrangements are carried out through the Structure Plan
which is prepared by Lancashire County Council, in conjunction
with Blackpool and Blackburn-with-Darwen BC's. More detailed plans
are prepared by the District Council through the West Lancashire
The problem with the current sub-regional strategic
planning is that although within Lancashire, Skelmersdale has
very close links with the metropolitan areas of Merseyside and
Greater Manchester. This is recognised through its role within
the Mersey Belt. Currently, therefore, Skelmersdale's role within
its wider regional context is not acknowledged to the extent it
10. Within the current Lancashire Structure
Plan 1991-2006 Skelmersdale is identified as a main urban area
and as such the shopping centre functions as a main shopping centre.
This is evidenced by policy 46 in the adopted Structure Plan.
Initial versions of the Replacement Joint Structure Plan 2001-2016
Deposit Draft clarify the role of Skelmersdale town centre. The
town centre is classed as a tier 2 centre where medium scale development
with a district wide catchment would be appropriate. A recent
study by Chesterton Consultants provides empirical evidence of
Skelmersdale town centre's role as serving the settlement of Skelmersdale
and other areas of West Lancashire District. It can therefore
be concluded that Skelmersdale only serves a role within the District,
rather than the sub-region.
In terms of investment in the town there are
significant sized development sites being brought forward for
development. One site comprises up to 5.71 hectares and is allocated
in the West Lancashire Local Plan for mixed use development. Supplementary
Guidance has been prepared and the site has been the subject of
a recent feasibility study by Chesterton which will shape the
marketing and development of the site over the next five years.
It is likely that this site will be developed for non-food retail
Two other sites are allocated for business development
comprising 1.45 and 1.8 hectares. There is also a site for new
housing comprising 2.5 hectares, a healthcare facility (0.64
hectares) and a town centre park (5.75 hectares). The town centre
therefore has significant investment planned over the next five
years as part of the wider regeneration initiatives in the town.
11. I am not aware of any clawback on housing.
Limited clawback on amenity land eg Whitemoss, Housing and New
Tech Park. Clawback arrangements work over 50 years but funding
for CRA2 assets only provided for 30 years. This is clearly inequitable.
12. Clawback has not impacted on Right to
Buy as originally the housing outstanding debt was transferred
to the District Council. Approximately £66 million. This
was later commuted under the housing subsidy rationalisation programme.
13. Biggest liabilities are undoubtedly
the landscaping and the infrastructure. When Estates were developed
the whole landscaping was not transferred to the developer resulting
in grounds and unadopted footways and roads remaining the responsibility
of the Development Corporation. These responsibilities subsequently
transferred to the District Council. As the footways and estate
roads are not adopted there can be considerable maintenance costs
and the grounds maintenance costs exceed £850,000 per annum.
Other liabilities include the experimental and
flat roof construction of a number of the buildings in the new
town, together with the use of high alumina cement and asbestos,
the use of which was prevalent in the late 1960s and 1970s. They
also include the poor pedestrian layout reliant upon subways and
14. I do not know the value of EP's landholdings
but the sales by them, CNT and SDC of commercial properties and
land will have been significant.
15. Very little in my view. Not a very willing
16. The SSA at District level is what remains
of the control total after the Counties, Unitaries and Metropolitan
Authorities have received their share. Consequently the District
SSA does not really reflect the need to spend, and does not take
into account the specific nature and issues of the new town. The
SSA formula does not allow specifically for new towns and former
The SSA is based on a national formula
that does not take into account specific New Town factors.
The SSA for district councils is
largely determined by their population adjusted for a number of
social, demographic and economic indicators. None of these indicators
relate specifically to New Town issues.
A clear example relates to the relatively
large number of footpaths and green spaces that New Town authorities
have to maintain. This represents a significant cost to New Town
authorities but it is not an issue specifically taken into account
when calculating SSAs.
It does not seem likely that a replacement
for the SSA system will specifically take into account New Town
issues because the replacement formula is likely to be simplified
rather than made more complex.
My view would be that improved funding for New
Town authorities is most likely to be achieved through either:
(a) lobbying the Government for a specific
grant arrangement for New Towns; or
(b) if the replacement SSA system contains
funding elements that are at the discretion of Ministers rather
than dependent on a national formula, New Town funding could be
sought through this mechanism.
17. West Lancashire District Council has
developed a Housing Strategy for the area as a whole. The issues
it has had to wrestle with include the fact that 70 per cent of
its social housing provision is within the New Town area. The
local plan for the areas has identified the New Town area of Skelmersdale
as the prime location for regeneration action. The unpopularity
of the ageing New Town properties which are built on the Radburn-layout
principle have meant that these are generally difficult to let
and therefore the demand for social housing in this area is limited.
This has caused some difficulty in producing a robust housing
strategy which maximises Housing Corporation investment in the
District. The Housing Corporation are rightly concerned about
investing in the Skelmersdale area. The areas of demand are rather
in the market town of Ormskirk and villages in the District where
developments are often smaller and it is more difficult to take
advantage of Section 106 agreements.
18. The Council have been particularly proactive
in investing in the properties in the New Town estates of Skelmersdale.
Major investment, mainly funded through estate action, has enabled
the Authority to overcome many of the design and issues of poor
construction/materials. There are still high ongoing maintenance
costs associated with the former New Town properties which we
do not feel are adequately reflected through the housing subsidy
system. Nevertheless, the issues surrounding the former New Town
estates in Skelmersdale are broadly issues of its design rather
than the materials. The material issues have, by and large, been
designed out. However, the high-density levels and the Radburn-design
layout have not been overcome and residents are now asking for
the estates to be remodelled on more conventional lines so that
defensible space, and that the design
issues which affect crime and disorder can be designed out;
parking within the curtilage of their
an integrated road/footpath system;
and a reduction of general-use areas which give rise to anti-social
19. The New Town layout is generally acknowledged
to contribute to the "fear of crime" eg underpass access
through estates and primary pedestrian routes, and motorcycle
nuisance on footways in densely populated areas. Poor estate design
and layout remains a major long-term obstacle to be considered
in tackling the reduction of crime.
Environmental improvements have been recognised
as having a potentially beneficial impact on the incidence of
certain street crimes and have been subsequently identified within
the newly revised three year Community Safety Strategy for West
Lancashire. Environmental improvements would include improved
street lighting, revised maintenance regimes for certain soft
landscaped areas, particularly adjacent to footways and bus stops,
and the removal of debris and abandoned cars from estates. The
Council has embraced the requirements of Section 17 of the Crime
and Disorder Act 1998 and has embarked on designing out identified
risks, where practicable, in association with its Community Safety
There are currently no identified community
safety related external funding opportunities available.
20. The Local Transport Plan is prepared
by Lancashire County Council. Some of the key proposals to reduce
car dependence are:
a quality bus route between Wigan
and Southport, which will pass right through Skelmersdale;
improvements to Skelmersdale Bus
funding for improvements to cycle
routes and pedestrian facilities;
funding has been secured through
the Local Transport Plan and SRB6 for a Skelmersdale Public Transport
Officer who will prepare a 10 year Transport Strategy for the
Town. Part of his work will also be to develop safe pedestrian
routes, in particular to public transport facilities;
a rail feasibility study has been
funded through the Local Transport Plan and SRB6;
Urban Bus Challenge monies have been
secured for a flexible bus service connecting to the employment
areas in the Town (Demand Responsive Transit Scheme).
In addition the District Council has established
Local Agenda 21 Groups, which include a Public Transport Group
in Skelmersdale and Cycling and Pedestrian Groups. These have
already highlighted many of the transport issues which exist.
This work is being taken forward through the development of the
The District Council is also preparing a Cycling
Strategy and Network Plan for the Town.
21. The Demand Responsive Transit scheme
will assist the mobility of a variety of different sectors of
society. In addition, Dial-a-Ride operate in Skelmersdale and
have just started a new ``Transport for Health'' bus which has
been part funded by the Countryside Agency.
Plans are in hand to establish a shopmobility
scheme for Skelmersdale Town Centre.
COMPARISON: SKELMERSDALE NEW TOWN AND GREAT
BRITAIN AGE STRUCTURE1981 CENSUS (USUALLY RESIDENT POPULATION)
| Age||Skelmersdale New Town|
|Great Britain Number%
|Pensionable age and over||3,534
Skelmersdale New Town = OPCS Census 1981New Towns Report CEN 81 NT(1).
Great Britain = OPCS Census 1981Great Britain Report.
COMPARISON: SKELMERSDALE NEW TOWN* AND GREAT BRITAIN AGE
STRUCTURE1991 CENSUS (RESIDENTS)
| Age||Skelmersdale New Town|
|Great Britain Number%
|Pensionable age and over||4,509
* Best fit of Wards and Enumeration Districts.
Skelmersdale New Town = OPCS 1991 CensusSmall Area Statistics.
Great Britain = OPCS Topic Monitor CEN 91 TM SAM.
COMPARISON SKELMERSDALE,* UPHOLLAND* AND GREAT BRITAIN
AGE STRUCTUREMID-1998 ESTIMATES
|Aged under 16 Number%
||Aged 16-59 Number%||Aged 60+ Number%
* Using best fit of wards.
NB figures may not add to total due to rounding.
Skelmersdale and Upholland Wards = University of Oxford.
Great Britain = ONSwww.statistics.gov.uk.