New Town MPs can tackle common challenges together
Our new APPG will work to ensure that all new towns, past, present and those to be built, can realise their full potential, writes Lucy Allan
Like all New Town MPs, I am hugely proud of the area I represent and I am ambitious for its future. Telford embodies the New Town ethos of optimism and hope. New Towns have always been about place-making for the common good, spreading opportunity, delivering social justice, and creating a better future.
Our New Towns have faced a unique set of challenges as they have grown up rapidly across the country and played their part the country’s renewal and in solving the post war housing crisis.
As many New Towns are marking their coming of age – Milton Keynes, Peterborough, Telford, Warrington have been celebrating their 50th birthdays and Harlow, Crawley, East Kilbride, Peterlee and others celebrating their 70th birthdays – it is time to take stock and not only celebrate the achievements of New Towns, but address the common challenges.
It was for this reason that the All-Party Parliamentary Group on New Towns was launched in January this year. This group working in partnership with the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA), is a joined-up voice championing New Towns in Parliament.
The New Town dream is an inspiring story: it is about building a better way of life and spreading opportunity. New Towns symbolise the drive, energy and optimism of people choosing to go in search of a job, a home of their own. Too often the reality can be challenging.
New Towns, by their nature, are dispersed across the country, which means they are disconnected in many ways from the areas that surround them and can experience isolation. They are not always welcome, there can be resentment from the area into which they come. Certainly, they share many common challenges.
We as New Town MPs want to tackle common challenges together and look to play a part in influencing government policy that affects our towns.
Our towns were built all at once, so now our infrastructure is ageing all at once. Our 1960s housing estates are past their useful lives and we all share the problems of decaying private rental housing. Our connectivity needs improving, and we have areas of significant deprivation and health inequalities. We have skills gaps. We also experience challenges of rapid development on new build estates where developers overlook the basics of place making. Historically there has been a negative perception that bears no relation to reality.
So, the cross-party group acts as an effective champion for New Towns in Parliament. We want to celebrate New Towns and take pride in their shared identity and ensure we are not overlooked, as today’s housing crisis is met with a whole new generation of new, new towns.
We are encouraged that government is aware of both the contribution and challenges New Towns face. We were delighted that the former Secretary of State Sajid Javid attended and spoke so supportively of our agenda at our launch in January, and we look forward to working with his successor James Brokenshire.
With the TCPA, we have scoped out three Parliamentary discussion forums over the course of our first year: providing high-quality homes, creating healthy New Towns and unlocking skills, innovation and enterprise in New Towns. Bringing together planners, local authorities, developers, employers, architects, residents and their representatives and all those with experience to share.
We are lobbying for a long term New Towns infrastructure fund to regenerate the fading new build social housing estates of the 1960s and other much needed infrastructure.
The APPG on New Towns looks forward to working with the TCPA over the next Parliament as we take our initiative forward. It is up to us to ensure that all new towns, past, present and those to be built, realise their full potential and make their contribution to Britain’s future.
Lucy Allan is Conservative MP for Telford and chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on New Towns
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