Monday 6 October 2014

Cranbrook: What's the difference between a housing estate and an eco newtown?

Some years ago, central and local government made much of the promise of Cranbrook as the first 'eco' newtown:
Cranbrook will show the way for PM’s Eco-towns initiative
Cranbrook on list of Government's planned eco-towns | Exeter Express and Echo
BBC News - Work starts on Cranbrook 'eco-town' in east Devon

Two years ago, serious questions were asked about the vision for Cranbrook - including in the several comments:
An honest look at Cranbrook and ‘growth point’ - Claire Wright

Over a year ago, this blog looked at how things were going: 
Futures Forum: Cranbrook

According to a correspondent who visited Cranbrook over this weekend, "if you want a view of dystopia, this is it... The lack of good design is shocking":

(images from Google)

And these are the scetches for an imaginary town centre that has yet to materialise:

Cranbrook High Street, Sketch 1 Cranbrook High Street, Sketch 2

Examples of urban planning and architectural design illustration

The Leader of the County Council promised to build a 'community:

“Too often, developers are allowed to build extensive housing estates without providing proper community facilities..."

Devon’s newest school opens its doors to pupils | News centre

But it's difficult to magic a sense of community out of thin air:
Futures Forum: District Council leader: “Sidmouth has a vibrant town centre and its community keeps a degree of excellence in maintaining it. Cranbrook should be striving to match that level of vibrancy for it to achieve all the aspirations that we have for it.”

Cranbrook has a primary school and a 'community centre':
BBC News - Cranbrook gets green light to build two new schools
'Thank the Lord!' Cranbrook community centre will open in time for Hallowe'en | Exeter Express and Echo
... but there is no doctors' surgery:
"Struggling to cope": Health chiefs' warning on effect of East Devon's population boom on GPs | Exeter Express and Echo
... and no shops 
Shops and flats to be built in Cranbrook next year - Business - Cranbrook Herald
Cafes & Coffee Shops in Cranbrook, Exeter | Reviews - Yell
... and no jobs - beyond the temporary construction jobs:
An honest look at Cranbrook and ‘growth point’ - Claire Wright (see last comment)
Futures Forum: The Exeter Gateway intermodal logistics site ...Sainsbury's "has finally killed the plan to build one of the largest logistics plots available in the South West"

And yet huge promise has been made for 'jobs and homes' for 'young families':
Futures Forum: "The new build for the western growth area of the district will provide much-needed business and employment for the young families as they set up new homes."

There was much made of a survey this summer, in which it seemed residents were pleased with their new town:
Survey suggests Cranbrook near Exeter is a great place to live | Exeter Express and Echo
However, closer analysis suggested much less satisfaction:
Cranbrook: residents speak – and it isn’t all sweetness and light (or even “vibrant”) | East Devon Alliance

As for its 'eco' credentials, the car dominates and there don't seem to be many cycle lanes:

Cranbrook roundabout. New Town rising... (C) Anthony Vosper :: Geograph Britain and Ireland
Cycling routes feature in new low carbon eco-town | road.cc
East Devon Green Party | EDGP press release October 16th 2013 - 590 more homes at Cranbrook

And yet planners had promised a 'sustainable' piece of development:
Latest News - Low Carbon Cranbrook - Exeter and East Devon Growth Point

There has also been a lot of discussion on the risks to the new town of flooding:
New pictures show impact of heavy rain at Cranbrook | Exeter Express and Echo

Meanwhile, it is not clear to what extent the housing allocation in the 'western end' of East Devon is actually benefitting the 'growth' of Greater Exeter:
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: and the longer-term demise of district councils... part three: Skypark and "the full economic potential of Exeter"

Cranbrook is actually part of Exeter's (rather than East Devon's) 'Growth Point':

Aerial view shows how fast Exeter's growing
Published by Mary Youlden Posted: 18/06/13

These stunning aerial photos show how the developments in the Exeter & East Devon Growth Point are rapidly taking shape.

Captured by Still Imaging, the pictures provide a unique perspective on how huge investment in creating homes and employment opportunities is transforming the landscape to the east of Exeter.

Construction at the new town of Cranbrook is continuing apace. Since May last year, more than 400 homes have been started, with around 200 completed so far. Up to 6,000 homes are expected to be built by 2026.

Just off Junction 29 of the M5, work has started on the first building on Exeter Science Park, the new headquarters of Exeter-based developers Eagle One and sister company Blue Cedar Homes. About £240m is expected to be spent on developing Exeter Science Park over the next 20 to 25 years.

The £210m Skypark development, next to Exeter International Airport, aims to provide 1.4m sq ft of office, industrial and manufacturing space. Plans were submitted for a 24,165 sq ft facility for the South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust in April.

Construction work has been completed on E.ON's £3m energy centre, which will supply both Skypark and Cranbrook. Hilton Worldwide recently created 55 jobs with the opening of its 120-bedroom Hampton by Hilton hotel at Exeter Airport, opposite the Flybe Training Academy.

Other developments in the area include a huge new Sainsbury's distribution centre. At 550,000 sq ft, it will be the largest building in Devon, roughly two-thirds the size of the Morrisons distribution centre beside the M5 at Bridgwater. The depot is due to open next year, with up to 450 jobs due to be created once it is operating at full capacity.

A package of transport infrastructure works paved the way for the developments, including £11m of improvements around Junction 29. The £9m Clyst Honiton bypass is nearing completion, and when it opens this summer will enable goods vehicles and other traffic to access Skypark, Cranbrook and the supermarket depot from the A30 without passing through the village.

Andy Wood, projects director for the Growth Point, said: "There has been tangible progress on each of the strategic developments in the past 12 months, which is fantastic. Housebuilding rates have been ahead of expectations, which is testament to Cranbrook being a popular place to live with a good school. In the coming year I expect to see continuing progress on the jobs front, with the first jobs at both Skypark and Science Park as the objective."

Aerial view shows how fast Exeter's growing | The Exeter DailyAerial view shows how fast Exeter's growing

According to a property puff-piece in the FT this weekend, Cranbrook is actually a dormitory town to a booming Exeter - with no pavement cafes and no mature trees in its 'centre':

Exeter in Devon: a boom town for business relocations

October 3, 2014 3:12 pm By Graham Norwood

The city is growing in size and influence and punches above its weight in terms of facilities

Until a decade ago people moving to Exeter were usually nearing or at retirement age, seeking a lifestyle change and keen to buy period houses. Things have changed today. For although Exeter remains the administrative centre of Devon, a rural county 200 miles southwest of London, the city’s demographic profile has altered radically.

The city has a population of 120,000, but punches above its weight in terms of facilities. A science park opens next year, a new out-of-town retail development will be led by a £60m Ikea store in 2016, and the new town of Cranbrook is being built northeast of the city with 2,900 homes in the first phase and 6,550 by 2026. While the rest of Devon thrives on a mix of unspoilt charm, tourism and farming, Exeter is now something of a boom town.

Exeter in Devon: a boom town for business relocations - FT.com

In the meantime, Exeter has been singled out for 'expansion' - following the accolade granted by Lord Wolfson to the notion of 'garden cities':

'Garden City' plan to double size of Exeter and Taunton

By WMNAGreenwood | Posted: September 06, 2014

Exeter is one of the cities targeted for expansion in the new plan
Comments (3)

New garden cities which would double the size of places like Exeter and Taunton would help to ease Britain’s housing shortage, a leading economist has suggested.

The Westcountry cities were among 40 identified for massive expansion by David Rudlin, an urban designer who scooped the Wolfson prize, the second-biggest economics prize after the Nobel. His award-winning proposals, which earned him £250,000, included circular developments, with parks and allotments, of up to 150,000 people per town.

Mr Rudlin argued models pioneered in Scandinavia, the Netherlands and Germany should be adopted by Britain which could “take a confident bite out of the greenbelt”.

Exeter and Taunton could double in size to ease Britain's housing shortage | Western Morning NewsGarden city will double the size of Exeter, claims leading economist | North Devon Journal
Futures Forum: Garden cities and greenfield sites

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