Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Memoranda

Memorandum by West Lancashire District Council (NT 08)


  1.1  The District Council welcomes the Committee's Inquiry into New Towns and the opportunity to present evidence to the Committee. We are also happy to be associated with the joint submission made by the 10 Local Authorities in the New Towns Group.

  1.2  The District of West Lancashire includes the former New Town of Skelmersdale. Skelmersdale in common with other New Towns has now reached the point where regeneration of the town centre and older employment and residential areas is required.


  2.1  As the Sub-Committee will appreciate, successful regeneration will require the identification, securing and co-ordination of the necessary financial resources. The realisation of the assets currently held by English Partnerships in Skelmersdale would provide a potential route to this. Currently, when assets are realised by English Partnerships the proceeds are not reinvested locally, either to secure regeneration objectives or to help meet the sometimes exceptional costs of service provision, which are a legacy of the former New Towns design and layout. Furthermore the former CNT assets now held by the Local Authority are subject to clawback on disposal. Within Skelmersdale, English partnerships currently have landholdings of some 62 hectares which contrasts starkly with the Council's landholding of some 10 hectares. Of this 10 hectares, some seven are in turn affected by clawback which stands currently at 72 per cent of receipt and reducing annually at 2 per cent.

  2.2  The Sub-Committee should be aware that the situation in former New Town areas with regard to their physical fabric is compounded by two further factors. The first is the short time frame within which the New Towns were constructed and the second is the experimental construction techniques which were often used. This has resulted in major refurbishment and replacement being required also within a short timescale and this in many areas is now becoming urgent. While the extensive areas of public and communal open space and hard and soft landscaped areas within the former New Town do much to enhance its setting and general environment, they do add disproportionately to the local authority's year on year maintenance costs.

  2.3  The New Town of Skelmersdale in common with other New Towns was planned to provide a better quality of life for its residents than previously experienced in their inner city source locations. The New Town was also seen as providing a focus for sub-regional economic growth and development. It should be remembered that at the point of transfer of planning and development responsibilities from the CNT to the Local Authority, Skelmersdale in common with other new towns was not in its planned "completed state". Much remained to be done. To secure the development that will take the New Town towards maturity and "normalisation" requires resources that are beyond the District Council's means. If Skelmersdale is to continue to progress and to fulfil the sub-regional function originally envisaged for it, rather than slip into a slow decline because it has been starved of resources, it is important that regeneration initiatives are funded and commenced as soon as possible. An essential piece of the resource jigsaw could be provided if the English Partnership landholdings were transferred to the Local Authority either without clawback or with minimal clawback; a similar provision should also be made in relation to the CNT assets previously transferred to the Local Authority. These resources would provide an important addition to the National and European Regeneration and Economic Development funding already secured in the District.


  3.1  It is strongly felt that the assets and powers held by English Partnerships in the former New Town area should be transferred to the local authority. This would give proper local democratic control over the realisation and reinvestment of assets within the Skelmersdale area. This local democratic control should relate both to the District Council, the elected democracy, and the Local Strategic Partnership, the representative democracy. Given the Government's urging of greater local democratic engagement and accountability and their desire to see local communities at all levels more engaged in the decision-making process around matters that affect their quality of life, English Partnerships' current role in the new town appears both out of step and anachronistic.


  4.1  The District Council feels that the time has come to critically review the role of English Partnerships in relation to the former New Towns; to consider seriously the returning of control of their assets there to the Local Authority. With full democratic engagement and control and by working in partnership with the LSP and RDA, urgent regeneration needs and issues can be more effectively addressed, with the highest level of community engagement and ownership. This we feel is the route most likely to allow New Towns such as Skelmersdale to continue to act as sub-regional growth centres by ensuring that there is an adequate asset base available to deliver a "normalised" situation.

  4.2  New Towns are no longer new but action is necessary if their initial successes are to be built upon and emerging and urgent regeneration issues are to be addressed.

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Prepared 16 April 2002