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Cranbrook in danger of becoming 'austerity town'

Friday, 6 September 2019 07:23

By Daniel Clark, Local Democracy Reporting Service

Nearly 2,000 homes are occupied, but it's lacking all but the most basic of facilities

Cranbrook is on the verge of becoming ‘an austerity town’, councillors have been told.

Nearly 2,000 homes in the new town are currently occupied but the town is lacking all but the most basic of facilities.

A supermarket, a town hall, a library, an auditorium, a skatepark, a youth centre, a children’s centre, retail units, and offices were all promised but have yet to be delivered.

Cranbrook was initially due to be delivered through a commercially-driven model with no public control of the land.

However, East Devon District Council’s cabinet on Wednesday night heard that the legal agreement that plays a critical role in establishing the trigger points for the delivery of facilities has become ‘an inflexible legal document which was negotiated in a different financial era’ and some of the facilities were ‘no longer fit for purpose’.

Among the current obligations is the Cranbrook Consortium must provide a children’s centre at 2,500 occupations. Devon County Council has now served notice on the Consortium and requires them to design, construct and complete them by either June 10, 2021, or when 2,500 homes are occupied.

Andy Wood, Projects Director, told the meeting: “We are therefore in danger of defaulting to a scenario that may not be fit for purpose or affordable over the longer term. Given the looming trigger points we are rapidly approaching the point of no return.”

His report recommended a Strategic Delivery Board is created to deliver critical community infrastructure in Cranbrook and the subsequent challenges for the future service delivery in the town.

He said that the delivery of assets and services in Cranbrook is fundamental to the successful achievement of the vision for the town and the Board will play an important role in coordinating delivery.

Mr Wood added: “The original vision for Cranbrook was as a freestanding new community which would be capable of supporting its own assets and services. In a constrained financial environment there is a need to actively reinvent how these will be delivered on a sustainable basis.

“Without this, there is a significant risk that Cranbrook will become an austerity town, bereft of the facilities and services that the population both expect and demand. The proposed Strategic Delivery Board is considered to be the best means to ensuring the necessary coordination and oversight.”

The new board will have a specific objective to develop an Implementation Plan for the delivery of key assets and services in the town, identify and secure funds including coordinating applications for funding, and ensure consistency of approach between all three tiers of local government so as to be able to speak with one voice.

Cllr Sam Hawkins, who represents the Cranbrook ward, said this would not be a ‘one-stop’ fix, but hopefully should bring clarity towards the delivery of the town centre. He added that in the past there has been a lack of cohesive thinking across the three tiers of local government but that this should ensure effective communication.

Cllr Kevin Blakey, who is the portfolio holder for economy and also a Cranbrook councillor, added: “This is not before time. The liaison between the three councils has not been as good as it should have, so hopefully this board should address this.”

As well as tackling climate change, being open and transparent and updating the Local Plan, a town centre for Cranbrook is one of the top priorities of the new Independent administration for the council.

Cllr Blakey added: “The provision of the town centre at Cranbrook is a top priority. The vitality of the town will be massively boosted by the provision of the Town Council building, a dedicated GP practice, supermarket and library. The land is there ready and waiting – it’s time the heart is put into our new community.”

The membership of the Strategic Delivery Board will comprise of:

  • Two members of Cranbrook Town Council
  • Portfolio Holder for Economy and Skills, Devon County Council
  • Representative of the Broadclyst division, Devon County Council
  • Portfolio Holder for Strategic Development, East Devon District Council
  • Lead Member for Cranbrook, East Devon District Council
  • The cabinet unanimously agreed to establish the Strategic Delivery Board and that an annual report detailing the work of the Board and its associated progress comes back to them.

The new Cranbrook Plan, detailing how will the town eventually develop to consisting of 7,750 homes with a population of around 18,000, has been submitted by East Devon District Council to the Secretary of State for examination.

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