Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum by Corby Borough Council (NT 50)

THE ROLE OF THE TOWN AND ITS FUTURE DEVELOPMENT

  1.  In the early 1930s the availability of local iron ore attracted steel works investment to the area. Thousands of workers and their families were imported to operate the works, housing accommodation was constructed by the Steel Company. In 1950 Towns Status was awarded followed by New Town designation.

  2.  Fortunes fluctuated until in 1979 the closure of steel led to the eventual loss of 11,000 jobs creating over 30 per cent unemployment. With the support of the newly created Commission for New Towns, Assisted Area and Enterprise Zone Status the economy bounced back and current unemployment is below 3 per cent.

  3.  Corby has a significant role to play in the Sub-Region as part of Motorsports Valley and Rockingham Motor Speedway.

  Proposals to double the size of the town will accommodate significant population growth and housing development over the next 20 years.

  Corby has an Urban Regeneration Company and is part of the Northamptonshire Sub-Regional Strategic Partnership. It is an economic driver for the County but a significant number of community and environmental issues require to be addressed.

  4.  The original Master Plan for the Town is to be replaced by a new regeneration framework which has been commissioned by Catalyst Corby through Consultants EDAW. This Master Plan will guide development and redevelopment of Corby in the future.

  5.  The original Corby Village of about 1,500 has been absorbed into the substantial growth of the New Town since 1933. However, the population has plateaued over recent years around the 53,350 figure.

  It is expected over the next 20 years that a doubling of the size of Corby will see substantial New Town expansion to the east and south of the existing New Town area. Catalyst Corby and the Local Strategic Partnership will be concerned to ensure integration between existing and new growth of the area.

  6.  The town has not achieved the population that was originally planned in the early Drivers Jonas studies, where a 125,000 population figure was muted. It is expected the new regeneration framework will enable the population target of 100,000 to be achieved over the next 20 years.

  7.  Corby has a relatively young population profile related in part to the development of the New Town area.

  Some of the health, social and cultural challenges presented by the population profile are reflected in the strategies adopted by the agencies in responding to this issue. The population profile also has a series of needs which are not well catered for in terms of existing town centre shopping, retail, leisure and cultural facilities. Part of the redressing of this shortfall will be achieved through the work of the Local Strategic Partnership and Catalyst Corby Regeneration Company.

  8.  The demand for commercial land remains vibrant although the price per acre in Corby is less than the surrounding rural hinterland. Industrial redeveloped brownfields site has been purchased for in the region of £100,000+ per acre. There is demand for further commercial development in the town but key anchor stores have not yet committed to the area with the existing population catchment. The effect of commercial development in other towns in the Sub-Regional economy, provides competition from Leicester, Peterborough, Kettering and Northampton and Corby loses some 67 per cent of local spend to these other Sub-Regional areas.

  9.  Corby is included in the East Midlands Regional Planning Guidance and within the County Structure Plan. The existing County Structure Plan has identified a special policy zone for Corby to allow the growth of low density housing and commercial development to be processed. The existing Local Plan adopted in 1997 has a need to be replaced given the recent escalation and proposals for growth within the Corby area.

  Part of the challenge for Corby Borough Council is to be able to fast-track the review of the Local Plan which currently projected may take some two to three years. Options within the Planning Green Paper are being considered to enable fast-track approval.

  10.  The Sub-Regional role of the shopping centre in the town has room for improvement. Significant multi-million pound investment is proposed in the town centre area over the next few years as part of Catalyst Corby Regeneration Company works. A key partner is the landowner for the town centre, TOPS Estates who have successfully sought development control approval and are considering how best to contribute to the work of Catalyst Corby to rejuvenate the town centre.

  The town centre is not currently seen to be competitive nor offer the range of shopping retail facilities anticipated of a population of 100,000.

ORGANISATIONS, REGULATIONS AND FINANCE

  11.  Covenants have restricted the development of key strategic town centre sites formerly owned by English Partnerships and was an issue requiring to be resolved in terms of a ransom strip owned by English Partnership as part of the Rockingham Motor Speedway development. English Partnerships ownership of other land is limited within the Corby area. However, the Commission for New Towns disposal of the town centre to a single landowner has not led to effective competition in the town centre and this may have slowed the substantial investment required to rejuvenate the existing town centre.

  12.  There are limited cases of clawback on right to buy being an issue for Corby Borough Council. The issues of clawback on Corby are more to do with the repayment of land reclamation grant required to decontaminate land previously worked and owned by British Steel. This involves millions of pounds over many years.

  13.  The Council continues to service debt of just over £600,000 in respect of the transfer of non-housing assets.

  14.  There is little comparability between the financial value of liabilities caused as a result of Corby being a New Town compared to the financial value of the assets held by English Partnerships in the Corby area.

  15.  English Partnerships are a key agency in the Catalyst Corby Urban Regeneration Company. Historically English Partnerships have played an important role in releasing land for redevelopment in strategic locations within Corby although their current role and land owning responsibilities are limited.

  Corby requires investment to double the size of the area to achieve the original plan and potential for Corby as a New Town. The town centre requires rejuvenation, the fabric and structure having been built at a similar time now requires substantial repair/replacement.

  16.  The SSA formula could be adjusted to reflect not only the parallel pattern of decline of new towns but in the Corby area the inheritance of building a new town around steel and the substantial hectares of contaminated land that the Borough Council continues to recover in association with current land owners.

  17.  The pattern of ownership of the town and the transfer of the CNT housing stock has led to a monopoly social landlord position for the Council in the area.

  The ability therefore to develop alternative registered social landlords and Housing Associations may have been slowed as a result of this pattern of tenure.

  This pattern of socially affordable housing will also have impacted on the socio-economic C2D profile for the area and limited private sector development of quality homes within Corby.

  These matters are currently being addressed through the Catalyst Corby Urban Regeneration Company work.


DESIGN

  18.  Corby Borough Council's Housing Revenue Account is likely to experience significant financial challenge in the next two to three years given the profile of the housing stock and the requirement to deliver a standard of decent homes. The balance between day to day repairs and planned preventative maintenance is currently 60 per cent-40 per cent.

  A stock options appraisal is being undertaken in order to identify how funding can best be secured to meet the repair and maintenance needs of housing stock in future years.

  19.  The Corby Community Safety Partnership has recently launched its Community Safety Strategy which seeks to ensure a designing out of crime when homes are being developed. The Community Safety Partnership taps into funding streams currently available through Government and other initiatives and in particular has been successful in securing bidding for additional CCTV camera coverage.

  20.  The Local Transport Plan generally includes provision for dealing with issues of design and layout to remove dependency on the car.

  The transport challenges in Corby are simply:

    1.  There is no rail station and no rail service although the rail line runs through the town. Corby is the biggest urban centre without a rail service in Europe.

    2.  The provision of a timely, effective bus service has proved difficult and the current provider has experienced problems in continuing a profitable service on all routes within the Corby area. A fundamental review of bus service provision is being undertaken through joint work between the County Council, Catalyst Corby and Stagecoach.

    3.  There is good infrastructure within the area but the success of the A14 requires a review of the A14/A43 junction south of Corby and improvements to a southern Corby by-pass road.

    4.  The Borough Council area has a successful black taxicab alternative provision and community service provision.

  21.  Mobility schemes to target the old, the young or disabled people are being promoted through the Corby Volunteer Bureau which has been successful in securing funding for such initiatives.


 
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Prepared 23 August 2002