Proposing more new towns for East Devon: will lessons over Cranbrook be learnt?

“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.”

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The District Council has to come up with tens of thousands of new housing over the next few years:

Calculating Devon’s housing need by algorithm – Vision Group for Sidmouth

And it’s currently putting together a new local plan which will feature proposed sites – as well as commitments to a green agenda:

Local Plans, housing and carbon commitments – Vision Group for Sidmouth

In green, the outline of the sites for the three potential new towns in East Devon

One of the proposals is more new towns:

More than 350 sites have been put forward for potential development across East Devon – including three potential ‘new towns or villages’…

Ed Freeman, service lead for planning strategy and development management, told the committee that a more ‘West End’ focused approach to new housing development was the most popular…

‘New towns’ and 10,000 homes in urban expansion of Devon – Devon Live

Councillors had previously heard that the north-west quadrant of the district, between the north of Exmouth and west of Ottery St Mary, was the least constrained part of the district for accommodating growth and would be the ‘logical’ location for development to take place.

Could new towns be built in East Devon? – Radio Exe

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However, looking at the current state and last ten years of development of East Devon’s only other new town, this should cause some pause for thought.

The District Council is trying to make up for good intentions and bad planning:

Cranbrook: where next?

Originally, East Devon leaders claimed infrastructure such as a rail link, to be opened early in the development, and regular bus services, as well as cycling and walking routes, would mean residents would rely less on private vehicles. Now more than 2,000 homes have been built, but no town centre, the streets are riddled with cars, unattractively parked in the streets near homes that lack sufficient parking.

Now East Devon District Council wants people to tell them if they think the planned expansion of the current town boundaries is appropriate. They’ve sent a letter” “to all relevant consultees within the affected area.”

Cranbrook – where next? – Radio Exe

28 June 2021 – What is your view on expanding Cranbrook Town Council’s current town boundaries? – East Devon

On his re-election last month, the Leader of the District Council made Cranbrook a prioirty:

“The town of Cranbrook needs much attention to help it emerge from some tangled knots remaining from its first ten years.”

East Devon District Council leader’s vision | Midweek Herald

And there has indeed been some progress these last months:

‘Next step’ towards delivering Cranbrook town centre agreed

Deal sealed for Cranbrook town centre with supermarket, shops & library

Cranbrook will get its new town centre after long-delayed plans agreed – Devon Live

With an overview from Daniel Clarke:

Cranbrook has grown massively in size while no one was looking – Devon Live

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However, as a comment from the above piece suggests, councils don’t seem to be able to work out how to ‘create new towns’:

Torbay council has recently decided that its area can support a Cranbrook Mark 2 with every green field sold to three developers for mass housing. No updated utilities, no extra schools places, no extra health services. Lots more pollution and sterile estates, definitely not for locals.

Cranbrook has grown massively in size while no one was looking – Devon Live

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But this is the problem for councils when it comes to ‘developer-led’ development – and so we end up with large housing estates with not much else to show.

Until only very recently, this has been the case for Cranbrook for the last decade, with developers again calling the shots:

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

Much more significant, however, is the betrayal of the original promise of an ‘eco-town’:

Some years ago, central and local government made much of the promise of Cranbrook as the first ‘eco’ newtown:
Cranbrook will show the way for PM’s Eco-towns initiative
Cranbrook on list of Government’s planned eco-towns | Exeter Express and Echo   ( page now removed)
BBC News – Work starts on Cranbrook ‘eco-town’ in east Devon

Futures Forum: Cranbrook: What’s the difference between a housing estate and an eco newtown?

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

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. What people really think about Cranbrook – Devon’s pioneering new town

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

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The new Local Plan being put together by the District Council promises to be very eco-minded:

Their ‘issues and options’ as part of the consultation for its new Local Plan looks at “Tackling the climate emergency”:

Objective 2: To ensure all new development moves the district towards delivering net-zero carbon emissions by 2040 and that we adapt to the impacts of climate change. issuesandoptionsreport-jan2021.pdf

East Devon Local Plan consultation: the costs of development – Vision Group for Sidmouth

But that’s not enough, as recently pointed out:

Are local plans planning for the zero-carbon future we need?

Since autumn 2019, the Centre for Sustainable Energy has been reviewing and commenting on Local Plans produced by various local authorities (both rural and urban), looking at their climate policy content and collecting good practice… So this has provided a glimpse of what is going on out there, and we can make some tentative inferences.

The first thing to note is that – confirming research carried out in 2016 by the TCPA – most of the Local Plans we reviewed … do not acknowledge quite how radical and challenging the 2050 zero-carbon commitment is for planning and place-making. Indeed, the implications for planning beyond binding zero-carbon standards for new builds are dramatic enough to warrant listing…

Are local plans planning for the zero-carbon future we need? | Centre for Sustainable Energy

Local Plans, housing and carbon commitments – Vision Group for Sidmouth

   
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