Stark warning Cranbrook is at risk of becoming an ‘austerity town’ bereft of key services and facilities for residents

Cranbrook is in danger of becoming an ‘austerity town’ with its residents deprived of key services and facilities, it has been warned. 

East Devon District Council (EDDC) experts say authorities are at the ‘point of no return’ when it comes to delivering vital amenities for the fast-growing community.

They have now called for a task force to be formed to rethink how the new town can secure the assets it needs.

Officers have recommended that the authority’s cabinet approves the setting up of a Strategic Delivery Board when it meets next month.

A report to members says: “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.

“This paper identifies that the delivery of key assets in the town centre is at a critical stage and puts forward a proposal for charting a clear path forward to ensure their successful delivery.

“The proposed Strategic Delivery Board is considered to be the best means to ensuring the necessary coordination and oversight.”

Some 3,500 homes have been granted planning permission at Cranbrook to date – with 8,000 earmarked. The town’s ultimate population will be around 20,000 people.

Town council offices, a library, and a health and wellbeing hub have been in the pipeline since 2015, according to the report.

The latter would cater for children’s and youth centre, primary care and leisure centre provision.

“The delivery of assets and services in Cranbrook is fundamental to the successful achievement of the vision for the town,” adds the officer.

“We are rapidly approaching the point of no return.

“This should not be seen purely as an issue relating to built facilities.

“Rather, it goes to the heart of how public services are delivered in the town to meet the needs of a young, growing population, including those with particular needs, both now and in the future.”

The report details how Cranbrook is key to the district’s housing growth and EDDC’s finances – through both developer contributions and council tax.

The council raked in £8.8million in government New Homes Bonus cash in 2017 and 2018.

Cranbrook is being delivered through a ‘commercially-driven’ model – with no public sector control of land.

A Section106 agreement – developers’ cash contributions for infrastructure – plays a critical role in the delivery of community facilities.

“It has become clear that certain of the facilities that are set out in the agreement are either no longer fit for purpose,” says the officer.

“Ultimately, there has been no resolution as to what form key facilities should take and how they should be delivered. Nonetheless, we are now at a stage where critical trigger points are being reached.”

The aim of the proposed Strategic Delivery Board would be to ‘focus on the delivery of future assets and services for Cranbrook’.

It would ‘provide oversight and ensure that the three tiers of local government can speak with one voice’ and comprise of two members from the town, district and county councils.

EDDC’s cabinet will consider the report on September 4.

Blueprint for Cranbrook’s future goes to Secretary of State

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