Town could blaze a trail says top planner

By <b>Ian Dipple Friday 20 June 2014 Updated: 20/06 09:47

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Buy photos » Cath Ranson (centre) presents Mayor Pat Witherspoon and council leader Bill Hartnett with the certificate from the RTPI marking 50 years of Redditch’s designation as a new town. Picture by Marcus Mingins 2514008MMR.

NEW TOWNS still have a role to play in answering the country’s housing crisis according to a senior planner.

Cath Ranson, president of the Royal Town Planning Institute, was speaking on a visit to Redditch last Friday (June 13) to mark the 50th anniversary of new town designation.

Ms Ranson presented Mayor Pat Witherspoon and borough council leader Bill Hartnett with a special certificate marking the town’s contribution to the history of the planning system.

She was also escorted around the town centre by members of Redditch Local History Society and met with former members of Redditch Development Corporation to show how it had changed as a result of the new town project.

Both the Government and Labour have proposed building the next generation of new towns as a solution to the country’s housing crisis.

Ms Ranson said places like Redditch had delivered communities, housing and employment opportunities and could provide lessons for future development.

“We’ve learnt the importance of human scale development because a lot of the new towns have been designed so they are lots and lots of small villages around a cohesive centre so people can walk from their homes to the centre of town and walk back, whereas when you are looking at some of the bigger towns that have grown incrementally there’s no way you can do that,” she told the Standard.

“They are one part of the solution to the housing problem but we have got to look across the piece and pull on every possible solution.

“Redditch looks a really nice place to live and that’s the one message that comes across from my visits to new towns there’s a strong sense of community, belonging and people are proud of them. It’s nice to see the old retained, so you have your traditions and your heritage. You have the church, bandstand and the fountain, so you have all of that retained giving the place character and history.”

Ms Ranson also had a discussion with council planners as issues resulting from the legacy of the new town are still impacting on current planning policy. She admitted it was an emotional subject.

“Planning is about competing needs and putting in place a vision and a strategy and trying to take a community with you that have different needs and aspirations. It’s about trying to come up with a solution that delivers and doesn’t just deliver a grey average compromise for everyone but something of benefit for everyone, so it is controversial,” she said.

Visit www.so-redditch.info for more on the 50th anniversary celebrations.

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