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Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Memoranda

Memorandum by Peterborough City Council (NT 24)

  In compiling our evidence for the Committee, we have structured our response broadly in line with the questions we understand are being addressed by the Inquiry into the New Towns' problems and future. We address the general picture for New Towns, and wherever possible we give specific examples as applied to Peterborough City Council, and its New Town areas. We hope that this format will assist the Committee in their deliberations.

  1.  The original design of many New Towns is leading to concerns about long term sustainability because

    (a)  their fabric, infrastructure and housing was generated on a large scale at approximately the same time. Thus, housing and design problems of that time are emerging en masse, for example, the neighbourhood designs of the Sixties were based on the assumptions of high car usage, two parent families where one parent was available for childcare, smaller families where teenagers/early adults left the family home once they started work; and where crime and fear of crime was at lower levels than currently. The design of these estates can marginalise communities and individuals who are vulnerable. Remote garage courts, alleyways and dense shrubbery mean that these estates are more prone to crime and vandalism. Peterborough experiences a higher rate of crime per 1,000 residents than any other district in Cambridgeshire. Even in comparison with its "crime family group" of 30 authorities, only two, Hastings and Bristol, have a higher rate of crime per 1,000 residents. During 2000-01 the total number of reported crimes was 24,305 compared to 26,381 during 1999-2000, which represents a 7.9 per cent fall in reported crime. During 2000-01, the most commonly reported crime was "Theft from Motor Vehicle" (16 per cent of all reported crime) followed by "Criminal Damage—Vehicle" (10 per cent) and "Violence" (9 per cent). In our opinion design in New Town areas is relevant to these figures and requires direct and specialist interventions to overcome the problems.

    (b)  Addressing sustainable transport issues will reduce car dependencies for example maintaining cycle tracks with good lighting, CCTV, reducing fear of crime which would also encourage people to walk to local neighbourhood centres; encouragement of tele-working and internet access points in libraries and shopping centres; park-and-ride for town centre access; rapid transport systems linking living areas with working/leisure amenities; decentralised/local area-based council service delivery.

    (c)  Balancing new developments and older parts of the towns requires planned investment in infrastructure and bold thinking about environmentally supportive urban design. For example, new developments should minimise car dependent layout, building in strong public transport access; where possible new developments should plan for energy-efficient housing and waste recycling. Where possible brown field/high density development should be used to the maximum, with mixeduse town centre developments which encourage the "evening economy".

  2.  Social Exclusion in New Towns is being exacerbated by the current Government policy in relation to small pockets of deprivation because:

    (a)  New Town neighbourhood characteristics generate social problems and anti-social behaviour, breakdown in family life and transport/mobility problems which, again, are not visible in the targets measured to access Government funds for tackling social exclusion.

    (b)  government initiatives selected solely on IMDs miss the type of regeneration required by New Towns whose infrastructure/housing may not appear in those indices.

    (c)  the current operation of "claw back" relating to housing leaves ex-New Town Local Authorities at a disadvantage with for example only £1.2k recycled into capital receipts from the sale of a £60k house.

  3.  In relation to the organisations and regulations operating in the New Towns:

    (a)  Where there are substantial land holdings with English Partnerships in a New Town there are particular difficulties because the New Town cannot realise the value of assets for additional finance to regenerate their own area. Nor can they use new Treasury rules which permit local authorities to borrow against their own assets.

    (b)  All planning powers held by English Partnerships should be transferred to local authorities so that the local authorities can use Section 106 rules to negotiate deals for local community benefit, so that local authorities have better control over growth in the New Towns. Planning arrangement should be streamlined. Local authorities are best placed to regenerate former New Towns.

    (c)  The recycling of capital receipts from CNT land asset sales into local regeneration projects will promote sustainable development. Local authorities should be permitted to borrow against the value of the English Partnerships' assets.

  4.  Ensuring that Government agencies work with local authorities in regeneration strategies will further promote sustainable development.

  5.  English Partnerships should be working in conjunction with local authorities. EP should have direct democratic inputs; currently the EP structure is disjointed, and while on individual projects English Partnerships are supportive and effective, overall there is a concern about accountability and responsiveness to local requirements.

  6.  The Government needs to taken into account the fact that the design of New Towns:

    (a)  has brought about a concentration of specific challenges which need to be dealt with rapidly social behaviours related to urban and neighbourhood design; dependencies on car-borne transport; a number of housing estates all reaching a point of needing refurbishment; demography of New Towns bringing on stream simultaneously, peaks of specific age-groups with related needs (nurseries for children, teen-age pregnancies/single households, older people and frail elderly with special needs).

    (b)  means that New Towns have a demography which is leading to current population growth but the RSG funding formula is weighted against strong population growth.

  We believe that as a consequence that the RSG formula should be reviewed.

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Prepared 16 April 2002