There has been recent comment and speculation about the town centre and criticism of both councils and councillors for the perceived failure to deliver the town centre in Cranbrook.
In March 2019 the Town Council published an explanation setting out the reality of delivering a town centre within the current economic climate and the purpose of this update is to clarify the position today.
The town centre will comprise of two elements – retail and other business premises and amenities led by local authorities. Land for retail and other businesses is being actively marketed by the consortium of developers with a view to attracting investment. This includes a supermarket, other retail shops, service industries and other commercial activities. The consortium is obligated to provide an initial 500m² of retail space at 2,000 occupations and there are discussions in progress about how that space can best be delivered and utilised. The consortium cannot force businesses to come to Cranbrook.
The provision of other facilities in the town is set out in the legal agreement (“Section 106 agreement”) between the local planning authority East Devon District Council and the developers which, in essence, sets the following obligations and trigger points:
Skate-park: 2,250 occupations (but to date we have not been able to agree an acceptable location which will not give rise to noise issues for residents)
Children’s centre: 2,500 occupations
Town Council building: 3,450 occupations
Library: 3,450 occupations
Youth centre: 3,450 occupations
Heath and Well-being hub: Land only in the town centre which is available
An important factor is the fact that the current legal agreement is based on development of the first 3,500 homes. We are aware Cranbrook could grow to around 8,000 homes and hence there is a need to bring forward facilities of a size and stature which can serve a town of that much larger size. We are therefore in discussion across all three tiers of local government, together with the developers, to identify funding to deliver the facilities earlier and better than the current obligations in the Section 106 agreement.
Equally, we need to deliver a town centre for the 21st century taking account of the shift in how people use a modern town centre and the shift in shopping habits towards online retail. What we must avoid is a high street with empty shops.