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What’s it like living in new town Cranbrook?

  • by J.W.

What sense of ‘community’ is there a decade on?

“The streets were practically empty apart from a few E.ON vans, a reminder the town’s troubled shared heating system…”


Back in September 2019, Devon Live asked residents what it was like living in new town Cranbrook: What people really think about Cranbrook – Devon’s pioneering new town – Devon Live

Today, Devon Live returns – but you’re not going to get much of an update, as the journalist has interviewed the pub manager, the café owner and a chap working in the chippie – all of whom are naturally up-beat about a town where they do business.

Here are the opening and closing paragraphs:

Devon is well-known and loved for its history, rolling countryside and coastlines but, in Cranbrook, things are a bit different. Building of the East Devon town started only 12 years ago and building of the town centre only began this month but despite being so new and only having a small handful of amenities, locals told us they’re proud of the town’s growing sense of community. The first thing that struck me as I made my way to Cranbrook on a drizzly Wednesday morning was how easy it was to get there. With Pinhoe, the gateway from Exeter to East Devon, in gridlock roadworks traffic, I wasn’t keen on travelling by bus, but it turned out to be a no problem at all. The town benefits from its very own train station, connecting it to all the main Exeter stations, on a line that runs all the way to London Waterloo every hour...

The weather had taken a turn as I left Skippers so I decided it was time to head back to the station. As the rain poured, the streets were practically empty apart from a few E.ON vans, a reminder the town’s troubled shared heating system. But Cranbrook clearly shares more than just a lack of reliable heating. “Community” had been the word of the day, with a sprinkling of hesitant optimism for what’s still to come.

Devon new-build town with ‘shady past’ is now ‘lush place to live’ – Devon Live

The comments that follow the piece online are not very complimentary. Here are some (balanced) excerpts:

  • Soulless, dull, depressing. But great if you want to live in jerry built, characterless, identikit rabbit hutches...
  • Cranbrook is “convenient” with its close proximity to Exeter and excellent transport links, sadly the present facilities are poor..
  • No mention of the bus shelters getting constantly smashed up. No mention of the rats that are still prevalent. No mention of…
  • The “journalist” appears to have only spoken to a couple people, all of which are working here. Of course they’re going to say they love it...
  • Cranbrook was ruined by the requirement to have a social housing allocation in new build estates.
  • We rented in Cranbrook when we sold our last house and whilst looking for new. Although there for 9 months none of the neighbours introduced themselves, smiled or wanted any conversation.
  • You sure!? Someone told me the local council received payments to take problem families from other areas and there are plenty of problems there!
  • Oh no, social housing! So many snobs here.

Devon new-build town with ‘shady past’ is now ‘lush place to live’ – Devon Live

The official website has artists’ impressions of the town-square to be – whether residents find it “soulless, dull, depressing’:

Cranbrook Town Centre: August 2022

The Younghayes centre ticks all the right sustainable building boxes, but otherwise… Community | DLA Architects Practice

In terms of ‘community’ there is a Facebook page – but it’s not very active: Cranbrook Community Association | Facebook

But there’s a private group too:

This is a place for the people of the new town of Cranbrook, Devon to talk about the things they want to talk about and as a resource for linking various community initiatives. Belonging to Cranbrook (Devon, UK site) | Facebook

The Town and Country Planning Association visited the town to look at the place – but it’s not clear if they spoke to anyone other than … planners: Lessons from Cranbrook – 10 years on

But meanwhile the practicalities of living in the town are becoming very stark – with these reports from last month: Cranbrook faces ‘devastating’ energy price rise – Devon Live and Cranbrook residents left without heating for almost a week as temperatures plunge to sub-zero – Devon Live

Does East Devon want ‘another Cranbrook’? Fears ‘second Cranbrook’ will have huge impact on Devon – Devon Live

With a bit more from these pages:

Lobbying for a new town at Greendale – Vision Group for Sidmouth

Cranbrook as “cowpat” development – Vision Group for Sidmouth

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