Decision on Cranbrook town centre will have to wait
Daniel Clark www.devonlive.com
A meeting that was set to determine how future development for Cranbrook’s long-awaited town centre would happen has been postponed.
East Devon District Council’s Strategic Planning Committee on Wednesday were due to discuss and make a recommendation over the way in which development would come forward.
They would have been faced with two competing proposals – one from the East Devon New Community Partners and one for the council to develop its own masterplan approach – with officers advising that the Cranbrook Town Centre Masterplan SPD should be the way forward.
However, the proposals put forward by the EDNCp – who are the developers for the majority of Cranbrook and have control of the land in the town centre – were significantly amended last week.
East Devon District Council have subsequently taken the decision to postpone the scheduled meeting so that the proposed changes can be fully considered and councillors properly advised of the proposed deal and its impacts.
A new report for the Committee will now be written detailing the amended proposals from EDNCp and help Committee councillors and the community to understand the proposals that are being put forward.
Cllr Dan Ledger, the district council’s portfolio holder for Strategic Planning, said: “The council understands the need for services and facilities to be delivered in Cranbrook Town Centre as soon as possible and remains committed to moving forward with discussions as a matter of urgency.
“It’s vital however that the discussions are informed by the most up-to-date and accurate information and that the proposals to be discussed are in the public domain and discussed in an open and transparent way. This would not have been the case had the scheduled meeting gone ahead.”
WHAT HAS ALREADY BEEN BUILT?
So far, more than 2,100 homes have been built in the new town in East Devon, as well as a train station, a primary school, a secondary school, a pub, and a neighbourhood centre with a general shop and a pharmacy.
THE EAST DEVON NEW COMMUNITY PARTNERS PROPOSALS
The proposal from the consortium of developers included:
- A 2,500 square metres Morrisons supermarket with an additional 1,000 square metres of retail space on Tillhouse Road (around 10 to 12 shops);
- A town square
- A nursery
- Around 350 town centre homes
- Town hall with café, meeting spaces and around 15 rentable office units (including land and around one-third of the construction costs)
- Children’s centre, youth centre and library in a single building (including land and the construction costs to the Section 106 value)
- A skate park
- Land for extra care facilities delivered by Devon County Council
- Land for a “blue light” facility to house fire, police and ambulance services
- Opportunities to provide additional retail outlets
- Public conveniences, if not built within a commercial building
- Option to purchase an acre of land to safeguard land for any additional development needs identified in the future, e.g. a leisure centre, workshops or light industrial units.
The main benefit of the EDNCp proposals is the short-term delivery of a supermarket and the additional 500sqm of commercial space beyond the S106 requirements, the report said.
It added: “The desire to see some delivery of services and facilities within the town centre is well understood and officers share this desire. The community questionnaires over the years have made it clear that the community want to see something delivered as soon as possible.
“This ambition is shared and there is no doubt that this would deliver a big short term gain for the town but in the long term the proposals would prevent the town centre from meeting the needs of the community in the future, lead to greater levels of out commuting, impact on health and wellbeing as well as the sustainability of the town.”
The report says that the EDNCp proposals provides clarity over how the Section 106 obligations for 500sqm retail space, youth facility, library, town council offices, health and wellbeing centre, extra care housing and public square are to be met, would see the early delivery of a supermarket, and the delivery of children’s day nursery, providing nursery care for under 2’s, not currently available in Cranbrook in a nursery setting.
The Cranbrook Consortium proposals for the town centre
But it says that it would see a lack of space for additional retail, business, leisure and community spaces to be provided, minimal employment opportunities for residents, and the lack of space for a leisure centre despite this being a policy requirement in the Cranbrook Plan DPD.
There would be no affordable housing, a sub-optimal location for the Health & Wellbeing centre and extra care facilities, no likely connection to district heating , no or very limited contributions towards the delivery of additional infrastructure arising from the residential development, and housing types which won’t deliver the footfall necessary in a town centre location
It would have long term impacts upon health & wellbeing of residents from having a lack of employment opportunities, facilities and services in the town, the report says.
THE MASTERPLAN APPROACH
The report to the committee had said that it was considered that the SPD offers the opportunity for the Council to take a lead on the delivery of the town centre by developing its own proposals and consulting the community on these to engage the wider community in this debate.
The work seeks to use the EDNCp proposals as a starting point by incorporating their proposals for the town centre, and would see the library, youth centre, children’s centre and blue light services provided.
But the proposal would make the remainder of town centre land available for a mixture of commercial, community and leisure uses to meet the needs of the town in the future.
The location of the extra care facility would be changed, while it may make provision for a hotel in the town, and would continue to plan for the proposed leisure centre to be provided.
Pros of the masterplan approach, the report says, would be that it would allow for the delivery of the commercial scheme of them Morrison’s supermarket, High Street shops and children’s nursery, allows for the Section 106 requirements to be located in optimal locations, and enables the future proofing of the town centre through setting aside more land for future needs while still enabling significant housing development to take place.
It would provide over 250 additional jobs to the EDNCp scheme with consequential economic benefits and retained business rates income, has the potential to deliver affordable housing, the potential to achieve connection to the district heating network, and achieves greater self-containment within the town leading to less out commuting, more sustainable journeys and better health and wellbeing outcomes.
But as the land is not owned by East Devon District Council, it would be uncertain how this could be viably delivered, and the delivery of the full suite of existing town centre S106 obligations would be subject to EDNCp proceeding to reach 3,450 occupations or delivery of these being negotiated in any land deal.
The report added: “A significant concern with pursuing an SPD to deliver the indicative masterplan or something similar is how it could be delivered. The land within the town centre is understood to be entirely controlled by Hallam Land and negotiations to date have indicated that they would only be willing to sell land within the town centre at residential land values even though there is no planning policy basis for valuing all of the town centre land on this basis.”
WHAT DID CONSULTEES SAY?
The Cranbrook Strategic Delivery Board had said they were in favour of pursuing the delivery of the Consortium proposals and does not support the SPD/Masterplan proposal;
Fewer affordable homes is always a concern for elected members but Cranbrook has a very good record of delivery across the development with a high percentage delivered to date, they said.
They added: “The question of a leisure centre is not regarded as problematic in the town centre area from the members’ point of view given the facilities available at the Cranbrook Education Campus which are available to the wider community and include a sports hall and other indoor and outdoor sporting facilities.
“Further sports facilities are already delivered at Ingram’s with more planned for the expansion of the town which will create opportunities to provide additional sports and leisure facilities and there has been no interest in a hotel provider coming to the town.
“While the aim of the SPD and Masterplan is, undoubtedly, to bring forward a more extensive and holistic town centre for Cranbrook, there are clear and unavoidable risks associated with this approach and therefore considerable concern within the local community that this will take a long time to achieve and, more worryingly, may never be achieved.
“It is clear that the approach via an SPD / Masterplan will not be attractive to the Consortium and therefore the likely scenario is that the plan would be progressed through compulsory purchase of land by a local authority and subsequent marketing of the various parcels to attract commercial interest. This is potentially costly to the public purse at this time of economic uncertainty and carries with it great financial risk.
“Existing Section 106 obligations, brought forward under the Consortium proposal, will revert to the original trigger points. This means that four elements (children’s centre, blue light facility land, skatepark and 500m² of retail space) will come forward in the foreseeable future while other obligations are not due until 3,450 occupations which is probably 7 + years away.”
But Gill Munday, Head of Primary Care (North & East), NHS Devon Clinical Commissioning Group, said the small stand-alone building that just houses GP services as envisaged under Option 1 is considered sub-optimal and will not meet the needs of the growing population of Cranbrook over the longer term.
And Peter Gilpin, CEO of LED Community Leisure said that the Cranbrook School facilities are already unable to meet the demand for activities that LED is being asked to provide and that and given the future population growth, these facilities cannot be expected to provide for the future leisure demands of the town.
He added: “Whatever the eventual operating arrangements, there is a clear case for the provision of a 4-court sports hall, or the equivalent space for alternative leisure activities, within a leisure centre with unrestricted opening hours and access for the general public, and a 6-lane pool (plus teaching pool) should be provided, as originally planned for.”
Planning officers, in their recommendation, had said: “The consortium proposals may deliver what the town needs now but in so doing it precludes the delivery of future commercial and community spaces that the town will need as it grows from its current 2100 homes to around 8000 in the future. Failure to meet the long term needs of the town as it grows jeopardises the future of Cranbrook as a sustainable and healthy new town.”
But with the consortium having changed their proposals, a new report, with new recommendations, will now be written.
The council will be looking to set a new date for the meeting in October.