HC Deb 13 May 1988 vol 133 cc280-1W
Mr. Allan Stewart

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he has yet given any consideration to the terms of the review of new towns promised by his predecessor in 1984.

Mr. Rifkind

The Government statement in November 1984 envisaged a review of the future of the Scottish new towns in 1989. To ensure that the Government's proposals are informed by the fullest possible consultation, I consider it necessary now to embark on the review, which I hope to conclude in the spring of 1989.

Formal consultation letters will be sent to the development corporations towards the end of May, inviting their comments on the four main areas to be covered by the review. These are:

  1. (a) the criteria for determining when a new town development corporation may be judged substantially to have completed its task;
  2. (b) the forward programme for wind-up, including the possibility of setting target dates;
  3. (c) the transfer at wind-up of residual new town housing, industrial and community assets;
  4. (d) the arrangements for employees of the development corporations.

The 1984 statement set down "trigger" populations for each of the five new towns, the attainment of which would set in motion the wind-up process. The statement promised a review in 1989 of these "triggers" and of progress towards them. However, it will be appropriate also to consider whether population—which can fluctuate for reasons unconnected with the physical, economic or social development of a town—remains a valid criterion. The review will examine alternative criteria for determining when to begin wind-up. It remains our intention that no development corporation will be wound up before 1 April 1990.

The White Paper "Housing: the Government's Proposals for Scotland" (Cm. 242) published in November 1987 made clear the Government's view that it would no longer be appropriate for the entire housing stock of a development corporation to transfer automatically on wind-up to the district council. The review will examine various options for dealing with rented housing still in the corporation's hands at wind-up, including possible roles for the district council.

As regards industrial and commercial property, the intention has been that these assets should on wind-up transfer to the Scottish Development Agency. However, the review will explore alternatives, including ways of transferring these assets into the private sector. Arrangements for the future management of community related assets such as open space and recreational facilities will also he developed.

In the course of the review the Department will consult the development corporations, local authorities and other interested bodies. A fundamental principle of the review will be to seek solutions that will maintain the vigorous success of the new towns in attracting and generating employment and in providing a very high quality of environment in which to live and work.

Much of the new towns' success has been due to the inventiveness and professionalism of development corporation staff. The Government will ensure during the review that staff are kept properly informed of developments.