Supplementary memorandum by R J B Morris
1. The original objective of the creation
of the New Town was to provide opportunities for development outside
the main English conurbations and in the context of Northampton
was to merge the existing Town with the new development.
It gave the opportunity for new housing and
commercial development to take place and at the same time create
a strong new community.
2. In general it is felt that primarily
all the objectives have been met, but there are some residual
problems arising from development of the earlier housing estates
which are now 30 years old.
The provision of housing generally has been
of a satisfactory standard and has provided opportunity for people
to acquire property at reasonable prices. The same principle applies
to commercial premises where new employment areas were created
as part of the master plan and these have also been successful
in attracting new investment.
3. Northampton is the largest New Town in
the Country with a population of 200,000, and is the powerhouse
of the County of Northamptonshire.
The Town is aiming to work positively with the
East Midlands Development Agency albeit that it is at the southern
edge of the East Midlands Region.
The Town is working positively with the new
regional partnership for Northamptonshire and its prepared to
work with all its neighbouring authorities to ensure economic
prosperity to Northampton and the County.
4. The original master plan has been overtaken
by successive local plans including the present one which was
adopted in 1997. However, the original master plan is still to
some extent a guiding principle for development and re-development.
5. A majority of expansion in the 1970s
and early 1980s took place on the eastern side of Northampton.
Effectively a population of about 40,000 people added to the existing
population of 125,000 and to some extent there was a "them
and us" situation. However, in the late 1980s and 1990s the
expansion extended into the southern part of the Town and is now
continuing on the southwest side of the Town.
However, overall it is reasonable to assume
that there has been a satisfactory integration and the "them
and us" culture no longer applies.
6. The original intention was to expand
the population to 250,000 people, and this is still intended albeit
on a longer time scale.
There is still considerable demand for housing
and commercial development in the Town, and it may be necessary
to consider the areas beyond Northampton's boundaries in order
to accommodate these needs. Already developments have taken place
beyond the current boundary in the southeast and southern sides
of the Town, as part of the County Structure Plan, and it is know
that there is a possibility of expansion on the northern side
immediately outside of the Borough boundary. Furthermore, proposals
have been considered for other commercial and residential developments
on the southwest side of the Town beyond the M1, and this is still
included in the County Structure Plan as a "Special Development
7. The age profile of the population is
generally younger than the national average, and in many ways
is as a result of the Town being a New Town, although there is
a considerable indigenous population which is reaching retirement
8. Demand for commercial land is very strong
and it is likely that this will be exhausted within the next few
years. It is expected that this demand will continue and because
of its location Northampton has developed very strongly as a distribution
centre. This requires large buildings and as a result this does
absorb a considerable amount of commercial land. It is hoped for
the future to concentrate on more quality employment areas sot
that there may be more intense employment over a smaller area
of land. Commercial development has undoubtedly enhanced the economic
prosperity of the Town, but it should be borne in mind that this
is in an area where there is considerable growth and as a result
there are continuing developments in the nearby Town of Milton
Keynes and elsewhere in the Northamptonshire area. There have
been fairly strong commercial developments in other towns within
Northamptonshire and the immediate sub-region and there has not
been any imbalance with the strong commercial development which
has taken place in Northampton.
9. Development in Northampton follows the
principles of the current Local Plan which was adopted by the
Council in 1997. This was prepared in line with the Structure
Plan for Northamptonshire. The Local Plan has proved to play a
major role in dealing with all Planning Applications and developments
10. The shopping centre in Town is primarily
to satisfy the demands of residents and visitors to Northampton,
and to encourage the wider catchment from the other towns within
the Northamptonshire area. There is a scheme proposed by Legal
& General who are the owners of the existing Grosvenor Centre
to expand that from 300,000 sq feet to 760,000 sq feet during
the course of the next four years.
It has to be acknowledged that there is a major
shopping centre at Milton Keynes approximately 15 miles away,
and as a result a considerable amount of destination shopping
does take place in Milton Keynes, but nevertheless the Town Centre
of Northampton is still strong and buoyant.
11. A question of clawback has not arisen
strongly in recent years, primarily because there are only a few
sites which are subject to clawback arrangements, where there
might conceivably be some form of development. Other clawback
arrangements apply to what could effectively be termed as public
open space, and the likelihood of any clawback is therefore minimal.
However, the present clawback arrangement between
Northampton Borough Council and the former Northampton Development
Corporation is on the basis that at the outset the Development
Corporation would receive 100 per cent of all receipts, and this
would reduce by two per cent during the course of the next 50
As a result Northampton Borough Council has
not been actively considering development on any of the small
number of sites which are still subject to claw back, because
even now it can only receive 34 per cent of the proceeds and the
remainder would go to English Partnerships as successor to the
There have been incidences of restrictive covenants
having been transferred to the Borough Council from the former
Northampton Development Corporation, and as a result the benefit
of these covenants has resulted in some limited financial gains
to the Borough Council.
12. The principle of clawback has not applied
to housing transferred by the Northampton Development Corporation,
and the problem therefore does not arise in Northampton.
13. It is not possible to quantify (presumably
financial) the outstanding liabilities facing the authority as
a result of the package of assets and liabilities transfers at
the winding up of the Development Corporation.
At that time the Borough Council took over the
housing assets of Northampton Development Corporation extending
to approximately 5,000 houses, and provision was made at that
time for repair and maintenance to many of the houses over a period
The second package called the Community Related
Assets Package, provided a number of areas of amenity space for
which there would be ongoing major maintenance liabilities, and
this was offset by the transfer (as part of the same package)
of a number of shops constructed in those housing estates, and
the ground leases of various commercial properties. There have
been no major problems arising from the actual design of the houses
which were constructed by the Development Corporation, but there
have been problems with regard to the layouts. Major work has
been undertaken at one estate in Northampton, and it is anticipated
that further work will be necessary in rearranging the layouts
at other estates which were provided by the Development Corporation.
14. It is difficult to compare the financial
value of the liabilities held by the Borough Council as a result
of the Town being a new town, compared with the financial value
of the remaining assets held by English Partnerships.
At the time of the transfer in 1985, the Borough
Council acquired the housing assets and has properties within
the Community Related Assets Package as referred to above, but
the then Commission for New Towns retained all the potential employment
land and residential land. Over the years it is expected that
the Commission for the New Towns, and subsequently English Partnerships
have obtained major financial benefits as a result of the sale
of land in various parts of Northampton, benefits of which have
not been passed on to the residents of the Town as a result of
these disposals. Whilst it is acknowledged that the Development
Corporation, and then to some extent the Commission for the New
Towns did provide some infrastructure services, nevertheless there
has been a major enhancement in value from the time when the land
was originally acquired which effectively was at agricultural
value, to sales which are currently taking place which vary between
£400,000 and £700,000 per acre. It is not known exactly
how many acres have been sold, but it is likely that this runs
into many hundreds of acres.
15. English Partnerships has not participated
in any regeneration partnerships in Northampton until the present
However, overtures have very recently been made
by English Partnerships to be involved in regeneration schemes
in the Town, and the Borough Council has tentatively agreed that
there could be benefits to both organisations if this were to
happen. No details have been discussed, but the Borough Council
has identified three areas where there may be benefits in this
form of partnership.
16. The present SSA allocation system relies
on historical rather than forward-looking data. Population figures,
for example, lag two years behind. For areas where there is high
population growth this causes particular problems as resources
are allocated on lower population bases than actual and cannot
meet the associated needs.
For some authorities the debt transferred from
development corporations can have a relatively high interest profile
as fixed interest loans were taken out for 40 to 60 years in time
of relatively high market interest rates. The capital block of
the SSA relies on notional interest rates, which are likely to
be much lower.
More forward-looking population estimates and
recognition of actual debt portfolios would be likely to assist
New Towns in receiving a fairer allocation of SSA.
17. The pattern of ownership and role of
CNT and EP has not had any implications on the Borough Council's
ability to develop a house strategy for the Town.
18. Generally the housing stock built by
the New Towns Commission in the last 30 years is in reasonably
good condition. The external of the property has shown little
signs of deterioration, apart from the timber components ie windows,
doors, fascias, bargeboards, cladding and fencing, which relates
to poor timber specification at the time of build. The Council
has been able to maintain this through a five-year Planned Maintenance
programme and Ad Hoc Window/Door renewals. The introduction of
a Capital Window/Door renewal programme has enabled the Council
to address some of the New Town estates. Future funding programmes
and staff will be needed to address the estates that are left
for Window/Door renewals and all other timber components. Internally
kitchen units are, and will be, up for renewal.
19. The layout/design of housing estates
has resulted in too many ``rat runs'' thus leading to undesirables
entering and leaving estates undetected. The CASPAR project has
started to address this issue on certain estates ie blocking of
``rat runs'' and fences surrounding estates. Door entry systems
have, or are being, fitted to flat blocks. More funding programmes
and staff will be needed to address other estates.
20. At the time of the demise of the Development
Corporation in 1985, a considerable amount of infrastructure had
been put into place as a result of Government funding through
the Development Corporation and providing new major roads around
various parts of the Town. However, this benefit has slowly deteriorated
over the last 17 years, to the extent that there is now considerable
overcrowding on roads. Although the Borough Council has considered
the possibility of a tram network which was put forward by the
private sector, this depended upon major contributions from developers
of land on the outskirts of the Town, which was then hit by the
publication of PPG3 which limited major developments to Brownfield
sites. As a result the Borough Council in conjunction with the
County Council's Highway Authority has now commissioned a study
called the multi-modal transport study which is due to be completed
in May 2003.
21. The Council continue to support commercially
unviable bus routes with bus subsidy. Substantial investment is
made in concessionary fares for the elderly and disabled. In addition
the Council provides a grant for a local Voluntary Sector run
door-to-door bus service for the elderly and disabled. The Council
has been instrumental in encouraging private sector bus operators
to provide a youth bus pass.
Significant investment has also been made in
providing appropriate kerb arrangements for kneeling buses to
facilitate use by disabled people.