Supplementary memorandum by Bracknell
Forest Borough Council (NT 12(a))
I am writing with regard to your request for
a response to a number of questions relevant to the House of Commons'
Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions
which is considering the problems and future of New Towns.
I have set out below officers' response to each
question, which I trust will be helpful. I have used your numbering.
1. What was the original objective of the
The first annual report of the Development Corporation
stated: ". . . the residents of Bracknell will have home,
work and friends, with facilities for shopping, education and
social and cultural needs all within easy reach, and with opportunities
for open-air recreation in the countryside around them. The town
is to be designed as a balanced and complete community and not
as a dormitory of London."
2. Which of those objectives do you think
have been met?
The objectives of providing a place to live,
work and play have been met.
3. What do you consider to be its role in
the region/sub-region in the future?
Bracknell is defined as a Major Town in Regional
Planning Guidance Note 9, recognising its role as a major town
centre for employment in the south-east region. The vision for
Bracknell over the next 15 years is set out in the Deposit Draft
Berkshire Structure Plan 2001-2016 and states "By 2016 Bracknell
will be a culturally self-confident centre, hosting a wide range
of shopping and leisure activities. It will be the home of a number
of major national and international companies but will also be
a place where new businesses can easily be created and grow. The
town's accessibility will be increased by connections to Heathrow
and improved links to London and other areas including the Blackwater
Valley. There will be a rebuilt town centre easily reached by
public transport and enabling a good standard of short-term access
by car. The new centre will contain expanded shopping, leisure
and employment but also a major housing element. Between now and
the end of the Plan period the town will continue to grow, building
on the investments made in the 1970s and 1980s. New housing areas
will be developed so as to maximise the opportunities for public
4. To what extent is the original master
plan for the town still used as a guiding principle for development
The original masterplan has not been used since
the Development Corporation was wound up in 1982. This has been
superseded by more up to date development plans.
5. How well have the old and new parts of
your town been integrated? If they have not been well integrated,
what form does this take in physical/spatial terms and what are
the implications of this for the growth of the town?
The estates developed as part of the original
New Town strategy, and those built subsequent to the New Town
corporation being dissolved, are physically attached to the town
centre and each other. However, although linked by open spaces
and footpaths/corridors, these estates were developed as distinct
neighbourhoods which were and still continue to be quite insular.
As a result, residents more often associate themselves with their
estate rather than the town as a whole. However, newer growth
on Brownfield sites tends to be better integrated with the community
as a wholereflective perhaps of the smaller scale of development
proposals being brought forward.
6. Has/can the town achieve the population
that was originally planned?
The original target population in the Mark 1
town was 25,000. A revised target of 50,000 has been surpassed
with a current population of approximately 55,000. There was also
a third target population of 60,000. Housing Development for that
population was undertaken under the Planning Acts after the winding
up of the Development Corporation. The town population today is
only 55,000, largely because of falling occupancy rates.
7. How does the age profile of your population
relate to the national average? Is this related to your being
a New Town? How do local agencies and strategies respond to that?
The Borough has a higher proportion of children
(0-15) and young adults (25-44) than the national figures as set
out in the table below. These figures are possibility attributable
to the level of family housing available in the Borough.
Percentage of Population by Age, 2006
|Age range||Bracknell Forest
Source: ONS Subnational Population Projections
The population profile of the Borough and the latest projections
are a relevant factor in the preparation of a number of Borough
strategies, particularly those relating to housing, education
and social care.
8. How strong is the demand for the existing commercial
land? Is there demand for further commercial development in the
town? What is the effect of commercial development in the town
on other towns in the sub-regional economy?
Existing industrial and employment areas as planned in the
New Town's development are now being actively regenerated at higher
densities as demand continues to be strong in Bracknell, as in
the Thames Valley, for high quality employment space. This comes
predominately at the expense of existing office, warehouse and
storage space, thereby creating a shortage of these less viable,
but necessary land use classes. Demand is also high for headquarters
in a campus style form which cannot be so easily accommodated
within existing employment areas or through Greenfield development
around the edge of town.
Commercial pressure in Bracknell is similar to other non-New
Towns in the area such as Maidenhead, Wokingham and Reading. This
commercial growth places greater pressure on Bracknell and surrounding
areas to provide additional housing to create the opportunity
for more substantial and sustainable growth.
9. Can you describe the sub-regional planning arrangements
that are in place to regulate/facilitate development? Can you
describe the strengths and weaknesses of the current approach?
Bracknell is within the Thames Valley sub-region, and part
of the Borough of Bracknell Forest is within the Blackwater Valley
sub-region. Therefore planning guidance for the areas is provided
in the RPG and sub-regional studies for the Thames Valley and
Blackwater Valley. However, this does not affect the regulatory
framework as such; Bracknell Forest is a Unitary Authority and
acts as the local planning authority for Development Control purposes.
Facilitation of development is primarily done locally with some
input from government agencies such as SEEDA.
Strengths include enhanced opportunities to present and defend
Bracknell Forest's position within the sub-Regions. However as
sub-Region guidance evolves, as a small UA to affectively monitor
infact to and take forward its recommendations is increasingly
Bracknell Forest also acts as the Joint Strategic Planning
Authority for Berkshire in partnership with the other Berkshire
Unitary Authorities. This is administered through a Joint Strategic
Planning Unit funded by the six Berkshire Unitaries.
10. What is the regional/sub-regional role of the shopping
centre in your town? What investment is proposed in the town centre
in the next few years?
As stated, Bracknell is defined as a major town in the region.
In the current Berkshire Structure Plan (BSP), Bracknell is defined
as a major town centre which sits below the regional and sub-regional
centres in the shopping centre hierarchy. This retail hierarchy
is being revised in the current review of the BSP to reflect more
accurately the form and function of the Berkshire town centres.
It is proposed that Bracknell will significantly expand its comparison,
convenience and specialist shopping offer and expand on the range
of uses within the town centre to effectively serve its catchment,
including housing, office and leisure uses. The age/design and
underlying non-viability of the current Town Centre create major
problems for the area with the vast majority of local residents
choosing to use neighbouring towns for their shopping. These problems
can only be addressed by the comprehensive redevelopment of the
Town Centre in line with the current Master Plan.
11. Can you give some numerical examples of the problems
that have arisen with clawback and covenants in housing, amenity
space and other land uses?
The most significant example of a transaction subject to
clawback was the sale of land forming a ransom strip to a residential
developmentChurch Hill House, 1999. The transaction was
part of a partnership approach between the Council and the Health
Authority in jointly selling the land. CNT significantly delayed
the sale, even though the Council and Health Authority had already
reached an agreement, certified as best consideration. Eventually
CNT agreed to the proposed deal and received 70 per cent of the
receipt, in the region of £3,000,000.
12. The Committee has been made aware that in some cases
clawback has made Right to Buy marginal or even negative, in terms
of receipts to the local authority. Has this been the case in
your authority, if so can you give a financial example? What are
the implications of this?
There is no clawback relating to Right to Buys in the Borough.
13. Can you quantify the outstanding liabilities facing
your authority, firstly as a result of the package of assets and
liabilities transferred to the authority at the winding up of
the Development Corporation, and secondly as a result of design
and other issues relating to the New Town?
There are no outstanding liabilities.
14. How does the financial value of the liabilities caused
as a result of your town being a New Town, compare to the financial
value of the remaining assets held by English Partnerships in
15. To what extent has English Partnerships participated
in regeneration partnerships in your town?
EP/CNTs only participation has been in maximising income
from any interest in land.
16. Many of the submissions have referred to the inadequacy
of the existing SSA to reflect the needs of the New Towns. Can
you detail those weaknesses and set out any suggestions about
how any successor to the SSA could be improved?
One of the major funding issues for New Towns relates to
the substantial investment needed to maintain the infrastructure
which is deteriorating at the same time. Related to this fact
are the problems associated with the nature of the infrastructure
particularly in terms of the extensive footpath networks, open
spaces and inadequate transport network.
The current central government funding mechanism (both Regeneration
Schemes and general revenue support) do not recognise the problems
and unique costs faced by the New Towns. Regeneration funding
is linked with deprivation, however, the current indicators do
not recognise the problems faced by supposedly "affluent"
New Towns such as Bracknell Forest.
The results of the current review of the Revenue Support
Grant distribution methodology will be published at the end of
this year and many of the key issues surround the adequate funding
of key services such as Education and Social Services. Specific
issues facing New Towns also need to be addressed by this review.
As such, the Authority believes that the area of specific Regeneration
Funding should be considered further and the criteria for participation
in these schemes should be reviewed in light of the unique problems
faced by the New Towns.
17. Has the pattern of ownership and CNT/EP's role had
any implication in your ability to develop a housing strategy
for the area?
It is not considered that this has significantly affected
the Borough's ability to prepare a housing strategy. If anything,
it may have made it easier as the stock is more uniform and newer
than in other locations.
18. What is the balance between the original design/materials
used and lack of maintenance/resources for maintenance in the
causes of the poor housing conditions found in some of the New
Overall, there is not a major problem with the maintenance
or condition of existing housing stock. The main Council owned
stock is in reasonable condition where the original construction
was of traditional meansproblems occur with "system"
techniques used in some areas and on some components. Availability
of materials for repairs can be difficult and expensive and mortgage
acceptability is an issue on some properties.
Blocks of flats built in the sixties are prone to condensation
due to changes in lifestyle relative to the original insulation
standards. Major expenditure is required to bring these properties
up to current building standards for thermal efficiency.
19. Has your design led to problems with crime? If so,
have you looked at ways to design out crime? Are there any funding
streams currently available to address this particular problem
and if so how successful have you been at bidding for such funding?
A number of crime and design issues have arisen. Many estates
were designed with garage blocks separated from homes. These could
be isolated, dark and secluded. Garages could be vandalised and
young people may gather near the blocks. Various unacceptable
activities can occur. There are also footways as short cuts between
and behind properties which have been problematic.
The design of the Town Centre has also thrown up some problems.
The impersonal oblong concrete style provides an unsympathetic
backdrop. The Town Centre, although pedestrianised, is separated
from the surrounding area by two ring roads. The inner ring road
is flanked by delivery yards and the town centre buildings back
onto the road giving a fortress effect.
A series of community safety and environment enhancing initiatives
have been undertaken to address these issues. In the longer term,
however, these problems have to be addressed by the plans to completely
redevelop the Town Centre to overcome the design difficulties.
Despite the problems outlined, crime in the Borough and the
Town Centre is relatively low, although perceptions are different.
Two attempts for bids for wardens/town rangers have been
made, both unsuccessfully.
20. What are you doing through your Local Transport Plan
to address the problems of car dependence? Does your Local Transport
Plan include provision for dealing with issues of design and layout
where that promotes car dependence?
The Local Transport Plan contains a number of integrated
strategies that seek to reduce car dependence and promote alternative
forms of transport. This includes strategies for demand management,
car parking, cycling, walking and public transport. Specific measures
include the promotion of travel plans, financial contributions
from developers in support of improvements to bus services and
new cycleways, parking management and the provision of cycle parking
facilities and reduced car parking provision in accessible locations.
21. Have you introduced or planned any measures to promote
mobility schemes targeted at the old or the young?
The large pedestrianised town centre of the original town
design has created many access difficulties for disabled people,
people with sensory impairments and older people with limited
The Borough Council is currently looking at introducing a
shopmobility scheme as people find it hard to walk the distances
from parking through the town to key services such as the central
library and council offices which are located within the pedestrianised
area. Additionally, the reliance of the design of the town on
multi-storey parking leads to little on-street parking for disabled
people or drop off points for community transport and taxis near
to services. The existing multi-storey parking areas are ageing
and provide inadequate levels of accessibility compared to current
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