Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by Corby Local Strategic Partnership (NT 39)

  This summary evidence of the Corby Local Strategic Partnership is submitted reflecting strengths/weaknesses/opportunities/threats in respect of Corby as perhaps typical of New Towns in part or whole. Information covers the following areas:

  1.  Design.

  2.  Social Exclusion.

  3.  Organisations and regulations.

  4.  Corby and the regional economy.

  5.  Government Policy changes.

  Key regeneration hopes for the area are to double the size of the population in 20 years, redress the socio-economic imbalance of the community, revitalise the town centre and support flagship projects such as Rockingham Motor Speedway and provision of a passenger rail service.


  Key points are the extent to which New Town design does not help long term sustainability.

  Secondly, the effect of the original design on urban management.

  Thirdly, how car dependence might be reduced.

  Fourthly, the balance between new development and regeneration of older parts of the town.


  The Corby LSP recognise there are current challenges in Corby which may apply to other New Towns.

  The fabric of the town and materials used in constructing the New Town Centre are reaching the end of their useful life. They require significant levels of investment to restore life into tired facilities. Public transport is inadequate in Corby, it is the largest urban centre without a passenger rail service. There is low car ownership but high use of taxis.

  The strengths of the area are the wealth of open spaces and sports facilities and the opportunity under a Local Plan review to expand and balance the socio-economic profile. Weaknesses of the area include non-traditional building, and post Radburn layout/design of estates. The socio-economic imbalance of Corby from the time the New Town was developed is reflected in the highest percentage of C2DE population in the country. The Town Centre requires investment and does not act as a positive magnet for the area.

  The opportunities presented are the ability to redevelop substantial parts of the New Town to integrate the community, to improve the Town Centre.

  To assist in the economic redevelopment of the area through the Regeneration Company Catalyst Corby, and look to move towards knowledge based and service industry away from the traditional industrial and manufacturing fields. The current threats include car dependency if the local bus service is withdrawn or reduced, given the current statements from Stagecoach. The geographical layout of the area requires transport between the ring of housing estates and the outer ring of industrial areas.

  The materials and design of New Towns requires renewal on housing estates and currently the balance of amenities within the Town Centre does not provide positive entertainment especially for young people or shopping facilities.

  The general unattractiveness of Corby may reflect the same types of planning approach and development design undertaken in other New Towns.


  The key issues under Social Exclusion are:

  Is the current policy on Social Exclusion exacerbated by a Central Government approach to regeneration/neighbourhood renewal, which does not enable small pockets of deprivation to benefit.

  The second issue is the level of Social Exclusion in Corby with pockets of deprivation masked by wealth in the surrounding areas. Corby is a relative island of socio-economic deprivation surrounded by a sea of wealth and prosperity in Northamptonshire.


  The Corby LSP response is to identify that current challenges include levels of anti-social behaviour, graffiti and vandalism on some estates, evidenced by application for Anti-Social Behaviour Orders. Extensive use of CCTV has controlled behaviour in some areas including the Town Centre.

  Community safety is underpinned by a very supportive partnership between the Police, Local Authority and other agencies. There is a lack of esteem and a lack of pride in parts of Corby amongst residents.

  Health challenges remain—coronary heart disease, diet and lack of health promotion. Substance abuse either through drugs, tobacco, alcohol and poor diet underpin significant levels of early mortality, high teenage pregnancy rates, coronary/heart disease, and other ill-health issues.

  Education—attainment can be very good through the City Technology College, for example, but the area has seen two failing schools close in recent times.

  The dependency culture is compounded by the socio-economic profile previously referred to.

  Customer satisfaction levels are low, which in part may be attributable to the negative impact of the Town Centre.

  Over two thirds of the properties in Corby are Council Tax Band A or B, and this profile is in contrast to property in surrounding Local Authority areas such as Rutland or rural Northamptonshire.

  Other strengths in the area include Education Action Zone, Sure Start, Associated Health Action Zone, Positive Futures and other health initiatives.

  Weaknesses reflect the dependency culture and the weekly wages culture in the low skills section of the economy. Certain neighbourhoods are stigmatised and there is some distrust of Police which may lead to an under-reporting of crime. There was a recent conference to raise awareness and help tackle domestic violence.

  There are significant levels of apathy and low expectations both individually and organisationally. The residential community has tended to the belief that the Council would provide in the absence of the market.

  Other opportunities arise on the back of the move by the Local Authority from the traditional role of provider to an outward looking role of enabler, which is intended to empower community groups to take forward their own facilities and services. This devolvement of facilities may help the move away from seeing the Council as the provider of resources where the market has failed to deliver historically.

  Catalyst Corby, the Regeneration Company continues to attract industry and investment to assist the regeneration and remodelling of both the Town Centre and outlying residential estates.

  The policy shift driven by the Local Strategic Partnership is to underpin social inclusion as a prime objective within the expansion and growth proposals for the area.

  The developing voluntary sector is an opportunity and the Local Strategic Partnership provides improved co-ordination.

  Threats include the impact of change by the Local Authority's strategic shift to the enabling role and the speed with which community groups seize the opportunity of doing things for themselves.

  The initial changes will take time to bed into the community and there are concerns about the community's capacity to cope with the pace of change.

  Threats also include the possibility of Corby developing into two communities with the substantial increase in growth anticipated. There is a negative stigma, image and perception of Corby and the local area.


  The key issues are what is the impact of regulations.

  The impact and consequence of English Partnership's control of land supply and English Partnership's role in the Planning system.

  The effect of the transfer of assets and liabilities to Local Authorities.

  What is the role of Local Authority's residuary bodies, non-departmental public bodies and promoting sustainable regeneration in Corby or other New Towns. For example, the East Midlands Development Agency, the Development Control Planning powers of the Borough Council.


  The Corby LSP response is that there are challenges in Corby concerning the inheritance of contaminated land, which arose from the working of steel in the area. There is limited land currently held by English Partnerships, although EP have interests in key sites affecting the future development of the area.

  There needs to be a better definition of previously worked land as Brownfield land or Olive land as opposed to Greenfield land.

  Although there is a considerable supply of land in the local area, which has been previously worked, the value of the land, reflects the Corby values generally which are significantly below the value of other adjoining Local Authority areas.

  The key decision by the Commission for New Towns to dispose of the Town Centre to a single purchaser has meant there has been a lack of competition to ensure investment, development and growth of the Town Centre over time.

  This decision of the CNT has probably held back development and investment in the area and fundamentally undermined the success of the Town Centre.

  A review of English Partnerships is important to establish whether or not English Partnerships should form part of the Regional Development Agency. English Partnerships and EMDA are a key partner in the Urban Regeneration Company, Catalyst Corby.

  The ability of all agencies to utilise the tax breaks available in respect of Brownfield land is important to the redevelopment of the area. Simpler sign posting and further development eg, VAT exemption, would be of assistance.

  The Local Authority collects over £20 million in National Non Domestic Rates, but has only £2 million re-allocated as part of the General Fund budget.

  Some businesses find this a bemusing and a questionably unfair arrangement. The lack of local retention of NNDR deprives the business community and Local Authorities of a budget stream where spend could be determined more closely in association with industrial priorities in the area than is currently the case. Central Government targeted help has, in the past, not always recognised the New Town's agenda. The constraints of the planning regime may not always provide opportunities for solutions which might tackle the challenges currently facing Corby or other New Town expansion proposals.

  Strengths in Corby relate to the supply of land and the partnership commitment from key agencies.

  Weaknesses reflect the value of land, the history of contamination of land and current requirements for registration.

  Future opportunities include the development of land and promotion of Brownfield land and Olive land as non Greenfield Development.

  The threats include the length of time and procedures required to undertake a Local Plan review, which may not move swiftly enough to enable private sector investment and regeneration of the area, to be achieved as quickly as possible.

  The Town Centre redevelopment is very much reliant upon the Town Centre owners' willingness to co-operate in the Catalyst Corby Regeneration Company work and in marketing and persuading key anchor stores to invest in the town.


  The issues to be considered are Corby's contribution and role in commercial, industrial regional economy.

  Corby's role in the local and regional housing market and the effect of Corby New Town on the surrounding accommodation.


  The LSP response is to reflect that Corby's current role in the regional economy starts from an historical industrial base of steel making, a low wage economy with extremes. There are generally low employee skill levels although high tech skills are evident. With the support of EMDA, English Partnerships, Northamptonshire Chamber and Corby Business Group, and Catalyst Corby, the area is a potential growth pole for the region.

  Currently, 76 per cent of local spending goes to Peterborough, Northampton and Leicester or other areas. The ability to hang onto this local spend to see it reinvested in Corby is a high priority.

  A focus on tourism as an opportunity reflects the increasing work between the New Town and the County and other agencies in taking a sub-regional strategic partnership view of the role of Northamptonshire/Corby can play in the East Midlands regional economy.

  The investment in Rockingham Motor Speedway enables the Corby area to promote itself as part of motor sports valley in terms of the global automobile market.

  Corby has shifted in culture partly by using partnerships of strategic alliances to address the weakness of its inheritance.

  Other strengths include low unemployment 2.7 per cent, the diverse range of industry, supply of affordable homes, transport road infrastructure and rail freight links.

  The weaknesses include relatively low wage economy, the socio-economic structure of the town, and over supply of property types on estates.

  The opportunities include the need to promote more strongly the rural hinterland to attract more upmarket jobs, environmental surrounds and quality homes to balance the lack of choice currently in the housing market such as the Oakley Vale development.

  To double the size of Corby over 20 years will require both an increase in commuters into the area as well as an actual increase of residential population. There is need for a wider skills base and continuing investment using Rockingham Motor Speedway as a catalyst for additional market interest.

  The Government Office multi model studies of the M1 and M11 allow the transport solutions for the area to be integrated at a cross-regional level, linking solutions for the M1, M11 and TENS A14 routes.

  Threats include the current absence of an integrated public transport system.

  Growth in Leicester, Northampton, Peterborough and Kettering will continue to provide competition for investment.


  The key issues to be addressed are should the Government change policy in New Towns.

  What do design policy, regeneration policy and social inclusion policy provide currently to support New Towns.


  The Corby LSP responses is that in summary, Corby currently loses out on the neighbourhood regeneration funding proposals which are confined to 88 local authorities with the most deprived wards within the country. A greater degree of NRF flexibility to allow New Town areas to benefit from NRF funding would be helpful.

  A definition of deprivation to allow the top 30 per cent of deprived areas to quality for NRF funding would see Corby and potentially other New Towns benefit from such changes in policy.

  Corby has severe pockets of deprivation which get masked by the wider Northamptonshire wealth and prosperity. This was set out clearly in the Catalyst Corby Regeneration Company submission and the Corby area has been successful in attaining URC status.

  It is argued therefore by the LSP that such NRF funding streams and similar should also be made available to URC status areas.

  There is a recognition that in going for growth, the expansion of Corby will relieve London and South East population and housing-building pressures.

  The second wind of growth of Corby to a 100,000 population by the year 2020 would not be achieved unless transport, investment, education, health and the agenda being reviewed by the Select Committee was perceived as integral to the wider regeneration of the area.

  The study to accommodate cross regional growth in the Bedford/Milton Keynes/Northampton/Corby quadrangle is an important opportunity of benefit to several New/Expanded Towns.

  The DTLR has established a working group to look at regeneration and transport in Corby, which is a positive move.

  Other strengths include the availability of sites both Brown and Olive land.

  Weaknesses currently include the poor transport service compounded by the inability to secure Urban Bus Challenge funding. Regeneration has historically been perceived as a second tier objective and if New Towns are to realise their full potential, there should be a higher profile and targeting of policy to New Town development.

  Opportunities include the flagship developments and the need for physical and socio-economic change within the area. There is a potential for huge redevelopment of the Town Centre with the support of the key owner.

  The promotion of IT to enable better access, provision of information and support is a key opportunity.

  The Planning Green Paper would allow a fast track for the review of the Local Plan which Corby could pilot including reviews of olive land.

  The high proportion of public sector housing in Corby may be considered to be a weakness and may reflect the imbalance of accommodation in other New Town areas. Other threats include that the individual needs of New Towns get lost as part of the wider urban area debate. Corby New Town is not the problem but is potentially part of the solution.

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Prepared 23 August 2002