What the Express and Echo article on Cranbrook DIDN’T report:
Firstly, that along with Councillor Moulding, other EDDC (or former EDDC) councillors were part of the DCC task group which were closely involved with the development of Cranbrook: councillors Bowden and former EDDC Leader Sarah Randall-Johnson.
and bits of the report that didn’t make the mainstream media have been extracted here:
Developers are house builders, not town builders. The planning of e.g. the town centre and open spaces is the responsibility of the district council as the local planning authority whose responsibility it is to ensure that developing land commercially is coordinated with building a new community with social as well as physical facilities and infrastructure. It took five years to negotiate the original Section 106 Agreement.
Numerous concerns were shared with the task group in relation to the developers’ activities, among them a large number of incidents relating to the quality of the completed homes, including compliance with plans and residents struggling to encourage developers to address any shortcomings. Landscaping of community space has followed rather than preceded development and the management and maintenance of future community space and development land is lacking. The number of complaints regarding the quality of the built environment resulted in some community representatives being concerned about Cranbrook’s future reputation and the success of future phases.
Despite numerous invitations it was disappointing that none of the four house builders were available to comment on the concerns which participants shared with the task group.
There is no standard model for planning community infrastructure and negotiating with developers, service commissioners and providers, but what is critical in creating a new town is upfront funding to support delivery the development of roads, community infrastructure and affordable housing from the public purse. Some of those facilities, e.g. the primary and secondary schools, Clyst Honiton bypass and Younghayes Community Centre, have been finalised ahead of schedule in Cranbrook. For others, notably the train station, there is a strong public perception that facilities are substantially behind schedule. Building and operating facilities without residents to use them is not viable but equally, residents expect facilities as soon as they move in. Participants repeatedly called for a multi-disciplinary team to plan and shape the future provision of services in Cranbrook.
In the absence of alternative public transport provision other than a limited but expanding bus service, car parking facilities were described as inadequate, including insufficient car parking allocation per bedroom, no visitors’ car parking, allocated parking bays being situated away from homes and garages being physically too small for cars to fit in them. Concern was expressed that habits formed in the early days would be hard to unlearn and that transport infrastructure should be delivered in line with residential development. Residents criticised “blue sky” bicycle thinking ignoring the reality that today’s Society had a two car per dwelling dependency which should be catered for in new development.
The roads in the town are not yet adopted, and as they are carrying significant volumes of construction traffic, the County Council does not currently have timescales for when responsibility will be transferred. The maintenance for the roads remains the responsibility of the developers, including gritting in the winter. The task group understands that the developers have an agreement with Devon County Council to finance gritting by the highway authority in severe weather. Several participants expressed concerns about dangerous car parking by residents and developers on pavements, corners and junctions but Devon County Council cannot extend its civil parking enforcement service until the roads are adopted.
Safe access routes to the Cranbrook Education Campus (primary and secondary schools) were due to be completed by the end of August 2015, including secure footpaths. An Infrastructure Site Manager employed by the Developer Consortium was overseeing their completion.
The task group remains concerned about the secondary school being located next to the railway line. Network Rail has committed to delivering awareness training for the children once per year in the school. The school was also planning to operate manned gates.
The main road through Cranbrook is not finished which might cause problems for parents whose children attend both the Cranbrook Education Campus. They would have to drop children off at both sites at similar times with no direct access route to both.
A pre-school facility would have assisted at an early stage.
When the first residents moved into Cranbrook in the summer of 2012, there was no social or community infrastructure or service provision beyond the completion of their homes. The task group repeatedly heard how this was a problem especially for the more vulnerable residents, including single parent families and residents without access to private transport. Social housing occupants were housed in Cranbrook and thereby removed from established communities, with shops, public transport and public services, and lived in Cranbrook in isolation. The complete lack of healthcare, social care or other professional support during the first 18-24 months meant that some residents were left to struggle on their own, exacerbating existing problems, including (post-natal/long-term) depression and drug/alcohol dependency.
Participants repeatedly expressed how there was provision for young children under the age of five in the form of open spaces and safe play areas, and some surrounded by unsafe fencing, but still no facilities exist for older children and teenagers. This resulted in problems, e.g. older children using the park and making it an unpleasant environment for younger children to play. Although funding had been available in the Section 106 Agreement from the beginning, the youth bus had only commenced at a later date. The task group understands that this provision was temporally withdrawn following an alleged antisocial behaviour incident at the end of July 2015. Participants commented that the provision should increase in order to combat antisocial behaviour issues, rather than be withdrawn.
The Cranbrook Medical Centre opened on 20 April 2015, nearly three years after the first residents moved in. An unsuccessful tender for new services and premises had been issued by the then Devon Primary Care NHS Trust in the past. The reorganisation of the NHS saw the responsibility for the commissioning of primary care services transfer to NHS England which awarded the contract to Devon Doctors. A funding challenge remains: Core services delivered in GP surgeries are funded per capita based on the number of formal registrations with a surgery. Although the current practice in Cranbrook has a capacity for approximately 3,500 patients, only 514 patients were formally registered at the end of July 2015. NHS England has provided some core minimum funding to the practice whilst the list size remains low and this will be paid until the registered population reaches a certain size, at which point capitation-based funding will be applied; another example of upfront funding required in the initial period. Two GPs, who are building their work load up to full time, and one nurse are currently practicing.
A backlog of patients who still need to be registered remains. When moving to Cranbrook, residents had to register with the Pinhoe & Broadclyst Medical Practice in cases where their old surgeries would not keep them registered. The Pinhoe & Broadclyst Medical Practice was difficult to access with public transport from Cranbrook which had proved a challenge for the more vulnerable members of the community.
Cranbrook is forecast to have approximately 20,000 residents by 2031 and the GP surgery will have to slowly evolve in order to grow in conjunction with the growth in residents and their future healthcare needs. The surgery will need a new building in the future with sufficient capacity to expand in a modular way to grow with the population. It would therefore be important for the NHS to be able to access Section 106 funding as appropriate to enable such premises to be facilitated, although there are concerns around State Aid which will need to be addresses as GP practices are effectively private businesses. NHS England is currently working with other health partners to develop a joint response to planning applications being received.
The independent pharmacy is being accommodated in temporary premises at present and the task group heard from participants how its provision might have been better coordinated and co-located with the GP surgery with improved forward planning.
One of the objectives in the development of Cranbrook is to develop the employment infrastructure, i.e. create one job per residential dwelling. Employment opportunities exist in nearby Exeter, the SkyPark and the Science Park and eventually in the town itself, with the intention that Cranbrook develops as a small enterprise town. The development of small-scale employment spaces is currently being pursued with the conversion of two residential dwellings into offices. Commercial properties in the town centre have not yet sold. The task group questioned where spaces are in the town for small- and medium-sized enterprises to establish their businesses. An Economic Development Strategy has been developed for Cranbrook.