Memorandum by Telford and Wrekin Council
When the post-war Labour government introduced
the New Towns Act in 1946 they saw this as an opportunity to create
planned and integrated towns in contrast to the piecemeal way
most development was secured at that time.
This was a bold and pioneering initiative to
create new communities that avoided the worst aspects of urban
livingpollution, congestion and poor housing.
Telford New Town (originally Dawley New Town)
was designated as a third generation New Town in 1968. The early
population target for Telford was 220,000. At the time it was
Britain's largest land reclamation scheme involving over 2,000
hectares of slag heaps, colliery tips, quarries, disused mineshafts
and derelict works that was the East Shropshire Coalfield. Consequently,
the New Town was expected to fulfil a dual roleto regenerate
the East Shropshire coalfields and to absorb overspill from the
over-heated West Midlands conurbation. In the late 70's the population
target was reduced to 150,000.
To understand the problems of the former New
Towns requires some knowledge of the unique circumstances that
apply to them and the singular and fundamental role played by
English Partnerships where they are the major landowner as in
Telford. The future prospects of the former New Towns will vary
according to local circumstances. We can only portray our views
on Telford's future, but suspect that this will apply to many
Telford's role has fundamentally changed from
its original one of accommodating overspill from the West Midlands
conurbation to that of a sub regional centre for growth. The significant
investment in local infrastructure and the extensive land available
for development means that it is well placed to accommodate growth.
To capitalise on this potential, Central Government and its Regional
agencies need to actively promote former New Towns like Telford
as centres for growth to a much greater extent. At present the
former New Towns do not feature on the national urban policy radar.
The situation is exacerbated by an inadequate recognition of the
social exclusion and regeneration problems experienced in Telford.
A way needs to be found to develop social and economic policy
that is more sensitive to the specific and unique circumstances
that exist here which would allow these problems and opportunities
to be addressed locally.
4. In summary, the key issues for Telford
Normalisationto have levels
of liabilities and assets and powers to control and influence
development through the planning process similar to those found
in "normal" local authorities.
Fair Fundingto receive grants
from central government that properly recognise our actual and
English Partnershipsto fundamentally
review their role and activities within the former New Towns that
will enable the regeneration and sustainable development of Telford
and its community.
Growthstronger policy support
to facilitate growth that will enable Telford to realise its full
potential and fulfil its role in the region.
Regenerationa more sensitive
social/economic policy framework to enable the Council and its
local partners to access regeneration funding.
and revenue resources to allow the Council to maintain its extensive
and ageing network of roads, open spaces and woodlands.
Despite these challenges and handicaps, Telford
and Wrekin Council is a successful and highly regarded local authority.
It has pioneered the Government's modernising agenda, much of
it before it became Government policy.
A local Strategic Partnership has
been in place for 10 years.
It has externalised its highway and
open space maintenance functions through a new Hosting Contract.
The Council has transferred its housing
stock to a local RSL, the Wrekin Housing Trust.
It has one of the highest rated Local
Education Authorities in the country and has a reputation for
innovative thinking (eg, the National Grid for Learning initiative).
It's Local Transport Plan is one
of the most highly rated in the country and many of its initiatives
are seen by government to be national examples of good practice.
Our Best Value Performance Plan is
highly regarded nationally reflecting a strong commitment to performance
management linked to corporate strategic priorities and objectives.
We have achieved this, and much more, in spite
of rather than because of our unique local circumstances. With
appropriate support from central government and its agencies we
could achieve much more in partnership with our local community.
Central Government's policies and
funding former regimes need to be refined to facilitate the regeneration
of the areas of severe depravation within the New Town.
Full planning powers should be restored
to the local authority over all the land held by EP.
English Partnership's land assets
in Telford should be transferred to the local authority to provide
the resources that will enable the regeneration and sustainable
development of the district to effectively meet the needs of the
Government funding should be provided
that recognises the significant additional maintenance liabilities
within Telford in terms of its extensive highway infrastructure
open space and woodland areas.
The vital role former New Towns like
Telford are making and can make in the future as regional growth
centres should be supported more strongly to make more effective
use of the immense infrastructure and human investment made over
the last 30 years and which will give Telford a sustainable future.
2. DESIGN AND
The principles applied to the planning and design
of Telford in the 1960's followed established thinking on how
places were laid out, built and managed and also the lifestyles
people would adopt. Influenced strongly by prevailing conditions
in urban Britaincongestion, pollution and poor housing
stockthe New Towns provided the layouts that created diametrically
opposite characteristics, namely, low density, segregated uses,
generous open space, separation of houses from the road network
and the provision of extensive local (mainly publicly funded)
facilities within walking distance.
Thirty years on, we have recognised that the
urban form of traditional towns and cities is fundamentally sustainable
and that the patterns laid out in former New Towns like Telford
are the very antithesis of this. This has lead to:
Low density dispersed estates, which
cannot support an effective public transport system.
Low levels of car ownership in some
of the more peripheral estates making journey to work problematic.
Declining local public facilities.
A redundant shopping hierarchy.
A pedestrian network with inadequate
levels of natural surveillance.
The absence of a recognisable public realm (the
concept of "the street" is practically non existent
outside the older six original settlements on which Telford New
Town was based) combined with a vast network of open space and
significant road infrastructure leads to major community safety
problems. Not surprisingly, this is the highest concern expressed
by people in Telford in recent surveys.
The original New Town concept assumed integrated
urban management and continuing massive capital and revenue support.
Most of the built form, open space and highway infrastructure
was completed in a short space of time and 30 years on is in need
of significant refurbishment/replacement. The successors to the
"cash rich" Development Corporations are cash strapped
local authorities like Telford and Wrekin Council.
To make matters worse, the right-to-buy legislation
has now divided external spaces between houses into a myriad of
ownerships especially in the Radburn layouts prevalent in the
estates of south Telford.
When the early estates, such as Woodside, Sutton
Hill and Brookside were built in the late 60's, the Government
priority was to build quickly and cheaply. Some 5,000 houses built
at this time were timber framed and the life expectancy of these
houses was, consequently, much reduced. Some 30 years on, a significant
number of dwellings in these estates are past or nearing the end
of their useful life.
One particular development, the Courts area
of Woodsidea deck-access development of 366 units, is in
such an appalling state that senior executives from English Partnerships,
the Housing Corporation and the Treasury who have all seen them
at first hand agree with the local community that they must be
demolished as a matter or urgency.
The Council wishes to pursue an investment,
regeneration and development strategy that transforms Telford's
fundamentally unsustainable pattern of development to a more coherent
urban form. Unless this is achieved, economic and social objectives
will continue to be undermined. What needs to be done in terms
of physical regeneration is becoming clear:
Introduce mixed uses to bring people
closer to more opportunities and to create a safer public realm.
Develop new road networks linked
to new developments that will support public transport and connect
isolated communities with each other and to local facilities and
New delivery mechanisms, supported by adequate
funding will need to be put in place to enable this to be achieved.
A priority for this must be the Woodside estate where the highest
levels of deprivation in Telford exist. A masterplan has been
commissioned through EP and Advantage West Midlands (the RDA)
to provide the framework. However, the resources to deliver it
remain elusive due to the current rules around funding that apply
to key agencies particularly EP.
3. SOCIAL EXCLUSION
Three of Telford and Wrekin Council's Wards
are amongst the 10 per cent most deprived in England with another
three within the 15 per cent most deprived. Telford and Wrekin
is ranked 96 out of 354 local authority areas in terms of the
national Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD). Neighbourhood Renewal
Funding is currently targeted at the most deprived 88 local authorities
ie, those which feature in the top 50 on one or more of the IMD
six domains. Because of the nature and the incidence of deprivation
in Telford and Wrekin we are consequently disadvantaged by the
IMD, and are unable to access Neighbourhood Renewal Funding for
these areas which are widely recognised as being in desperate
need of investment.
Whilst the Telford area has benefited from other
Government area-based initiatives which seek to combat social
exclusionEducation Action Zone and Sure Startthe
area has not been designated as a "Regeneration Zone"
within Advantage West Midland's Regional Economic Strategy. This
will seriously disadvantage the area, having no access to regeneration
funding from the "single capital pot" in the future.
Notwithstanding this, the worst early New Town
estates are experiencing "abandonment" through a collapsing
housing market, high crime levels, appalling physical conditions,
undesirable private landlords and high levels of deprivation.
This phenomenon, at its most virulent in Woodside, could spread
to a number of adjoining estates where similar underlining conditions
exist. These problems are on a parallel with the worst peripheral
estates in the West Midlands conurbation.
From the local wage levels perspective, both
the top and bottom 10 per cent of full time employees in the Telford
and Wrekin area earned less than their counterparts in the West
Midlands as a whole; the figure being about 95 per cent in both
cases. This needs to be viewed in the context of the West Midlands
employees earning less than the average for Great Britain as a
whole, this reduction being more marked with the top 10 per cent
of employees than the bottom. From a UK wide perspective, the
top earners in Telford & Wrekin earn about 87 per cent of
the average, while the bottom earners earn about 92.6 per cent.
English Partnerships, who in other former coalfield
areas invest heavily in regeneration, have no remit for regeneration
in Telforddespite owning 80 per cent of all developable
land in the town. Revenue from the sale of these assets goes directly
to the Treasury. Their role is one of asset disposal and not re-investment
The problem is exacerbated by the fact that
the local authority has very limited resources of its own due
entirely to the unique way assets were originally obtained and
transferred, common to most if not all former New Towns.
As a result, Telford is faced with an enormous
regeneration problem, fully recognised by relevant government
agencies, but with very limited access to any regeneration funding
and with nominal assets available to the local authority.
It has been estimated that if there is no substantial
intervention, 3,500 dwellings will need to be demolished over
the next 10 years. The ultimate cost to the public purse will
be enormous. Quite simply the "do-nothing" scenario
is not an option and consequently the current rules have to change
to allow us to tackle these problems now before they become much
It is difficult to over-estimate the significance
of EP's influence and remit in Telford. The fact that its role
is to fundamentally raise capital from its significant local assets
for the benefit of the Treasury and its inability to accept any
responsibility for, or major role in addressing, the town's wider
development and regeneration needs has severely hampered the Local
Strategic Partnerships aspirations for Telford to prosper and
provide a high quality of life for all.
Despite having no on-going obligations to previously
developed land, English Partnerships do enjoy certain rights and
controls over these areas. In essence, they are entitled to a
financial clawback should any land previously transferred be redeveloped
in a way that increases its value. This mitigates against regeneration
initiatives where enhanced land values are used to fund/subsidise
local improvements or facilities. There is further clawback payable
by the council to EP on all former Development Corporation houses
which were purchased by the council and are now subject to Right
to Buy, even though no longer owned by the Council following transfer
of its housing stock. The clawback exceeds the residual disposal
amount received by the Council under the transfer arrangements
so each disposal reduces the Council's already limited capital
(b) Lack of LA assets
As with other former New Towns land was originally
acquired by the public sector and then disposed of at an enhanced
value. English Partnerships, not the local authority, have inherited
these assets. They hold 80 per cent of the developable land in
Telford and yet none of the capital receipts received are returned
locallyinstead the receipts go directly to the Treasury.
The impact of this on the Council has increased since taking on
responsibility for Unitary services where the need for infrastructure
maintenance and development for schools, roads etc, is only partly
met by Government allocations, thus increasing the pressure on
the Council's very limited disposable land holding.
(c) Lack of Planning Control
Through historic powers, which have not been
rescinded, English Partnerships are able to largely by-pass the
normal planning process. Outline consents granted up to 30 years
ago remain valid in perpetuity. Consent for detailed development
is granted by EP with the Local Planning Authority reduced to
the role of consultee. Consequently, the level of influence of
the Local Planning Authority through the Local Plan and locally
approved Supplementary Planning Guidance is very limited and that
of the local community much reduced.
The securing of local community facilities and
other infrastructure investment through the normal S.106 route
is not available. While some community provision is secured through
consultation with EP, no provision of sites for secondary schools
required primarily to meet demands created by the EP development,
for example, is made as a matter of corporate policy.
Similarly, there is a reluctance to allocate
good sites to accommodate housing for the social rented sector
and an even greater reluctance to integrate housing with other
development. Over the last 11 years less than 1,300 dwellings
have been constructed by Registered Social Landlords out of a
total of around 10,000 new dwellings.
A further consequence is the lack of planning
fees. This is estimated to be in the order of £1.5 million
in relation to EP's remaining land holdings. Planning fee income
now forms a significant proportion of every authority's planning
service budget. The Council's planning service is consequently
severely underfunded which prevents it from employing the full
range of staff needed to deal with the complex regeneration and
development needs of the whole district.
To bypass local democratic involvement in the
development process is an anachronism and serves little purpose
other than to maximise the revenue received by the Treasury. These
factors collectively undermine Telford's ability to deliver quality
co-ordinated development that will meet the wider needs of the
people of Telford as envisaged in the government's recently published
Green Paper on Planning.
5. TRANSFER OF
EP hold 144 hectares of housing land and 158
hectares of employment land with the benefit of S7.1 consents.
This makes EP's housing asset in Telford the largest in its portfolio.
Telford's own asset base is minuscule by comparisonaround
7 Ha of housing land most of which is subject to clawback.
We estimate the value of EP's land assets in
Telford to be £270 million. If a significant proportion of
this land was transferred to, or made available in partnership
with the Council, this would enable the following to happen:
Investment in the deprived former
New Town estates in south Telford to address abandonment, reverse
their decline and turn them into sustainable communities.
Enter meaningful partnerships with
other agencies/private sector to bring in additional funding for
regeneration and new investment by using our land assets as leverage
and a source of capital.
Deliver the transformation of the
Town Centre of Telford into a lively, mixed use place with an
evening economy that will serve the needs of the whole community
and not just those who come to shop by car in the daytime.
Support the development of connected
communities through the creation of a network of new safe public
streets, supported by a quality public transport service.
Deliver essential infrastructure
and supporting facilities including schools.
Possible options such as simply transferring
the former New Town assets to the local RDA would not address
these issues, but simply transfer the problem to a different organisation
which currently does not fully recognise the regeneration needs
There will, however, be the need to transfer
the skills and staff resource available to EP to the local authority
to allow them to undertake their enhanced role.
6. ROLE OF
For any community to be truly sustainable it
needs to be sustainable in economic, social and environmental
terms. Moreover, the local community, residents and businesses
together, must be a part of the process and have full ownership
of the town's future direction. The effective vehicle for this
is the Local Strategic Partnership through its Community Strategy.
We have in Telford a long established and effective partnership
already in place.
In the former New Towns, the local authority's
role is undermined by the unique circumstances it finds itself
in. It is essential that arrangements are "normalised"
to allow democratic and holistic to fulfil this local authorities
Given adequate resources and skills base, local
authorities would wish to enter into new and effective partnerships
with a number of agencies and the private sector to deliver sustainable
regeneration. The LSP and local Community Strategy would provide
the overall framework that would give these partnerships focus
and legitimacy and achieve the longer-term goals of sustainable
As referred to elsewhere in this submission
the Council has, with its local partners, a vision for the future
of Telford but is severely hampered in delivering it with its
inadequate control over the development process and lack of resources.
We are keen to see Telford:
Building on its strengths and capacity
to continue to be a fast growth area in the region.
To deliver a more sustainable pattern
of development that will allow Telford to become a sustainable
7. ROLE OF
A key role for the New Towns has been to help
stimulate and accommodate the housing and employment growth needs
of the regions they are located in. That role continues today.
The West Midlands RPG adopted in 1998 recognised that "the
former New Town of Telford will continue to have an important
role as a regional growth centre."
Telford has significant land available for both
residential and employment development supported by an extensive
road and open space infrastructure. Consequently, Telford has
the capacity to grow. Growth, however, needs to be channelled
into existing "developed" areas as well as undeveloped
sites if it is to become a fully sustainable settlement. If we
do this, Telford uniquely will become more sustainable through
New Towns like Telford are not there to compete
with the more established urban areas. They fulfil a complementary
role as recognised within the emerging West Midlands RPG.
In planning terms the government's policies
on design and regeneration are articulated to a large extent through
the various PPGs. These promote quality and sustainable patterns
of development that are entirely consistent with Telford's development
aspirations. What is needed, is the opportunity to control development
in the former New Towns through the normal planning process to
allow these policies to be delivered locally.
Recognition also needs to be given to the fact
that the planning and design principles, which under-pinned former
New Towns like Telford, are contrary to accepted principles of
sustainable development as now advocated by Central Government.
Telford has the largest remaining stock of housing built on the
Radburn principle and has an out-of-town shopping centre as its
town centre. What needs to be done is in little doubt the introduction
of mixed uses, higher densities, a safe public realm, connected
communities, an effective public transport system and a diverse,
vibrant town centre.
There is consequently, a special and additional
obligation on Government to ensure that resources and mechanisms
are in place to allow these previously developed areas, which
are fundamentally unsustainable, to be revisited and restructured
as well as ensuring that any new development follows good practice.
In addition to new development, the regeneration
of the most deprived estates in Telford needs to be addressed.
Current mechanisms for allocating funding do not pick up more
localised concentrated areas of deprivation like Woodside. The
IMD is too crude a mechanism for recognising these specific pockets
Unless the problems of areas like Woodside with
its collapsing housing market can be tackled, Telford cannot become
a town with a sustainable future regardless of levels of growth
and new employment.
An holistic approach is required that joins
up the Government's social, economic and environmental objectives.
This is exactly what the New Towns were set up to do by the post-war
Labour government. A lack of joined up practice by the different
government departments since then has dogged the development of
New Towns like Telford. We now have a unique opportunity to turn
that original vision into a reality.