Communities and Local Government Committee: Press Notice

Lessons to be learnt from the New Towns, say MPs

MPs have criticised the Government for never fully evaluating New Towns despite its major plans to create 3 million new homes and a series of eco-towns.

In a report following up a previous select committee inquiry on New Towns carried out in 2002, the Communities and Local Government Committee says such research is needed:

1. To identify the steps which are needed to maintain the post-war New Towns as successful communities and good places to live.

2. So that the lessons can be learned for the Government's current housing projects.

The original 2002 report had commented: "While many New Towns have been economically successful, most now are experiencing major problems. Their design is inappropriate to the 21st century, their infrastructure is ageing at the same rate and many have social and economic problems."

Today (Friday 11 July 2008) the Committee echoes that view and says New Towns have special and particular needs. It points out each New Town was built at around the same time, so the majority of the infrastructure of each town is reaching the end of its design life at the same time. Whereas other urban areas may have pockets of infrastructure now needing renewal, New Towns face the prospect of all their infrastructure requiring refurbishment at once.

MPs warn if those needs are not recognised there is a danger they will fall into social decay and physical dereliction.

But while an assessment of regeneration requirements is needed, this should not overshadow the need for an analysis which can deliver clear lessons for the current "eco-towns" programme, for the Government designated Growth Areas and for future development to meet housing needs in England.

Chair of the Communities and Local Government Committee Dr Phyllis Starkey said: "The Government has embarked on a massive regeneration programme, aiming to deliver 3 million new homes by 2020. It would be an act of folly not to spend a small sum on trying to learn the lessons of history in order to prevent past mistakes being repeated.

"The experience of the New Towns can teach us a lot about how we should approach the long-term planning of current and future large-scale urban development such as the "eco-town" programme and the Growth Areas."

NOTES FOR EDITORS

The Transport, Local Government and the Regions Committee produced a report in 2002, The New Towns: their Problems and Future.

Between 1946 and 1970, 32 new towns were established to provide new homes and jobs following the Second World War.

They were based on the ideals developed earlier in the century by Ebenezer Howard's garden city movement, which sought to create better environments for people away from the smog and cramped conditions in inner urban areas.

1. Committee Membership is as follows: Dr Phyllis Starkey MP (Chair, Lab), Sir Paul Beresford MP (Con), Mr Clive Betts MP (Lab), John Cummings MP (Lab), Jim Dobbin MP (Lab/Co-op), Andrew George MP (Lib Dem), Mr Greg Hands MP (Con), Anne Main MP (Con), Mr Bill Olner MP (Lab), Dr John Pugh MP (Lib Dem), Emily Thornberry MP (Lab).

2. More information on the Committee's report on New Towns: Follow-up, including links to the Committee's previousl Report and the Government's response, can be found on the Committee website at: www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm/cmcomloc.htm

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