Memorandum by Torfaen County Borough Council
1.1 Torfaen County Borough Council, within
whose boundaries Cwmbran New Town is located, fully endorses and
supports the submission made by the New Town Group of Council
1.2 This paper does not reiterate the issues
and points raised in the joint paper, but seeks to highlight specifically
the Cwmbran case and, in particular, the Welsh dimension.
1.3 Torfaen County Borough Council request
the Sub-Committee note the following recommendations:
Cwmbran should be "normalised"
as far as possible;
Torfaen County Borough Council is
the best placed organisation to lead in the regeneration of Cwmbran;
Cwmbran has significant levels of
deprivation and needs specific funds to address this issue;
Torfaen County Borough Council lacks
the assets and access to finance required to maintain infrastructure
and tackle regeneration. Additional finance is required to tackle
these problems through changes to the calculation that allocates
general capital funding, for example;
Cwmbran is a major sub-regional growth
centre. In order to continue to thrive, policies need to be adjusted
to encourage and sustain this success;
English Partnerships assets in Cwmbran
should be transferred to Torfaen County Borough Council.
2.1 Cwmbran was designated a New Town in
1949 and is now 53 years old. It was built to provide housing
close to industry already in place as a result of measures taken
under the Special Areas Acts during the 1930's and 1940's.
2.2 Cwmbran has a population of 48,000 and
is a major employment centre in the South East Wales region.
2.3 Despite the success of Cwmbran, very
real issues of deprivation exist which are detailed below. In
recognition of this, Torfaen County Borough Council established
a Regeneration Partnership in the south-west communities of the
town aimed at addressing these problems.
2.4 The County Borough Council has established
Regeneration Partnerships in its principal towns of Blaenavon,
Abersychan/Garndiffaith and Pontypool which are successful. In
contrast, the Cwmbran Partnership, despite significant efforts,
has been unable to attract the levels of funding required to address
the very real issues that exist. This reflects a view held by
funders that problems do not exist in the New Town. It also reinforces
the issues, detailed below, that the revenue and capital implications
of maintaining the New Town are not recognised by The Welsh Assembly
or its Government Agencies, and that the lack of a "normal"
asset base deters regeneration activity.
3. CWMBRAN THE
3.1 The facts about Cwmbran run contrary
to this view. Cwmbran comprises 12 wards in total. Of the 12 wards
which make up Cwmbran, New Town, two lie within the top quartile
of the most deprived wards in Wales. St Dials and Upper Cwmbran
ranking 176 and 163 respectively out of a total of 865 wards in
Wales in terms of the composite index of multiple deprivation.
3.2 According to the Index of Multiple Deprivation
for Wales 2000, the wards of Greenmeadow, St Dials and Upper Cwmbran
also feature within the top quartile of the most deprived wards
in Wales in terms of income deprivation (129, 132 and 88), educational
deprivation (102, 100 and 52) and child poverty (79, 195 and 85).
Two of the wards feature within the top 100 most deprived wards
in Wales in relation to Child Poverty highlighting the incidence
of lone parent households, benefit dependency and low earnings.
3.3 Each of the three wards exhibit high
levels of social isolation and exclusion, partly borne out by
the fact that they are home to some of the most vulnerable groups
within our society, ie, the homeless, young single unemployed
people, and lone parents. Both Greenmeadow and Upper Cwmbran suffer
from poor housing, high levels of unemploymentespecially
amongst those aged below 25 years of age, poorly educated residents
who have few or no skills and poor health. Both wards also exhibit
a high level of drug and alcohol dependency, and crime and disorder,
especially amongst young people.
3.4 In physical terms, the development of
Cwmbran was condensed into a 30 to 40 year period. As such, large
areas of the town, built at the same time, require substantial
revenue and capital expenditure to replace and maintain.
3.5 The combination of these issues has
given rise to a range of problems as set out below:
Significant levels of urban deprivation
in South and West Cwmbran;
Social exclusion of vulnerable groups;
Simultaneous ageing of infrastructure
Skill and training deficits;
Areas of experimental housing that
have proved unsuccessful and suffer internal design problems;
Large areas of "planned"
open space which require maintenance;
Poor urban design in terms of layout
and use of the car.
3.6 Dealing effectively with these problems
is hindered by the financial circumstances the New Town Authorities
have inherited. In particular, the current Standard Spending Assessment
does not reflect the extra expenditure required to maintain Cwmbran's
environment. In this respect the ongoing development of some revenue
allocation formulae using small area data may better reflect Torfaen's
needs by reference to small geographical areas.
3.7 Furthermore, the lack of an asset base
due to financial controls over Community Related Assets, places
Cwmbran at a disadvantage on two counts:
It restricts the ability to raise
monies to address problems relating to the deterioration of property
It acts as a disincentive to the
development of land within the town that could assist in regeneration.
At present 70 per cent of any asset sold is returned to English
Partnerships. This does not encourage inventive solutions to problems.
Recycling of the asset, however, would not only encourage this
but enable investment in the future well-being of the town.
4. CWMBRAN THE
4.1 Cwmbran is the only Welsh New Town and
its Community Related Assets are administered by English Partnerships,
an English body whose remit principally lies in that country.
It is a concern that the very pressing needs of Cwmbran will be
"lost" within an organisation that controls large tracts
of land in England and whose main focus of activity is regeneration
4.2 Should the New Town Assets be dispersed
from English Partnerships, then the treatment of Cwmbran's assets
should principally reflect the needs of Cwmbran. Our view along
with the New Town Group of Authorities, is that those assets should
be capable of being recycled locally under the democratic control
of the Local Authority. Anything less would further contribute
to the problems already experienced by Cwmbran.
5.1 In conclusion, Torfaen County Borough
Council fully support the submission made by the New Town Group
of Local Authorities and its principal conclusions:
Democratic organisations should be
in control of key assets in New Town areas.
Local Authorities should have access
to assets currently held by English Partnerships so they can re-invest
the money back into the regeneration and rejuvenation of local
Covenants and claw backs are a major
hindrance on the development and re-development of many sites
in New Towns and is inhibiting incentives to develop new uses
for many sites. Therefore, all claw backs and covenants should
be cancelled to allow local authorities to develop sites to meet
the needs of todays communities.
English Partnerships' control of
sub-soils curtails and slows down developments in New Towns.
Local Authorities in New Towns should
have the same planning powers as any other local authority, including
rights to Section 106 agreements and planning fees. This would
allow these local authorities to receive the benefit of the planning
system any other local authority would take for granted. (NB Although
these issues are not directly applicable to Cwmbran, experience
from the past leads Torfaen County Borough Council to support
5.2 The overall benefits of transferring
the assets and powers held by English Partnerships to the local
authorities would include:
A more responsive and democratic
A true partnership could operate,
giving stakeholders a key role in the development of New Towns;
Funds from the sale of local assets
could be recycled into locally deprived areas and meet the high
costs of maintaining New Town infrastructure;
Local authorities would have control
over the future of the communities they serve;
Local authorities could buy in specialist
services to help them develop sites in a responsive way to the
needs of the local community.
5.3 Torfaen County Borough Council would
also wish to emphasise the special nature of Cwmbran as Wales'
only New Town. In particular, that arrangements made for the dispersal
of assets recognise this, reflect the Welsh dimension and take
account of specific issues and problems Cwmbran faces along with
other New Towns in the UK.