75 years on from the first new town: lessons for East Devon?

Stevenage: each of the initial six neighbourhoods would have all their own community facilities; medical centres, shops, schools, community centres, as well as green open spaces.

Cranbrook: there was an argument to say things could have been done differently, with the town centre coming earlier.

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It’s seventy-five years since the world’s first new town was born:

St George’s Church (now St Andrew and St George), Stevenage, built in 1956–60 to designs by Seely & Paget Photo: Patricia Payne; © Historic England Archive

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the New Towns Act, which allowed the government to designate areas for development to relieve overcrowding in London and provide homes and jobs for servicemen returning from the war and their families. This means Stevenage, the first New Town, is about to turn 75!

Stevenage became the UK’s first new town on 11 November, 1946. To much fanfare, alongside considerable local opposition to start with, the plan was to create a town where each of the initial six neighbourhoods would have all their own community facilities; medical centres, shops, schools, community centres, as well as green open spaces. It was also the UK’s first full pedestrianised shopping area.

75th Anniversary of the New Town

The world’s first New Town was designated 75 years ago this year.  A vision for a better way of living, Stevenage was a revolutionary place.

Why did Stevenage become a New Town & how did it happen? | Great British Life

With celebrations from Historic England:

This book celebrates the vision of its original concept, the architectural impact of its creation and its enduring legacy, both architecturally and socially.

Historic England publishes book celebrating Stevenage | The Comet

Compare Devon’s first new town:

The original vision talked of a ‘self-sustaining’ eco-town within easy reach of employment opportunities and fit for the demands of the 21st centruy. Car travel would be reduced due to the new train stop and a trail-blazing ‘vibrant town’ connected by multiple cycle routes would help the town grow and take its place in the ‘natural hierarchy’ of Devon settlements. In truth, it was all a bit unrealistic.

Cranbrook: from eco newtown to housing estate: part 2 – Vision Group for Sidmouth

Last year, they were still waiting for a town centre:

Competing proposals brings further doubts and delays.

Cranbrook: the town without a town centre – Vision Group for Sidmouth

And now that the District Council have produced draft plans for another new town, the questions remain:

“Mass housing: No updated utilities, no extra schools places, no extra health services. Lots more pollution and sterile estates, definitely not for locals.”

“Most Local Plans do not acknowledge quite how radical and challenging the 2050 zero-carbon commitment is for planning and place-making.”

Proposing more new towns for East Devon: will lessons over Cranbrook be learnt? – Vision Group for Sidmouth

Of course, the developers are saying it’s all an unmitigated success:

Paul Crawford, chief executive of LiveWest, one of the two main providers of affordable housing in Cranbrook, says a lack of confidence by retailers is the reason for the decade delay in building a town centre… But after more than 10 years since the diggers went in, Cranbrook still has no town centre – which has raised concerns from many residents…

Mr Crawford said part of the reason why the town centre was yet to materialise was because of the current economic uncertainty gripping the country amid the pandemic, and changing fortunes for high street retailers. He said there was an argument to say things could have been done differently, with the town centre coming earlier… Mr Crawford said Cranbrook, in East Devon, and Sherford, a new town to the east of Plymouth, could be used as case studies to find out what could be improved in future.

East Devon: Cranbrook developer says retailer lack of confidence is reason for town centre delay

Another (‘nice’) developer has been doing a spot of PR:

As part of its ongoing commitment to supporting the community, construction firm Taylor Wimpey Exeter donated a further £750 towards parkrun events at Cranbrook Country Park. The social running event was set up in 2019 by Matt Rowett, the founder of the Cranbrook Running Club and a resident at Taylor Wimpey’s Cranbrook development.

Devon’s nicest businesses and who they gave help to in 2021 – Business Live

   
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