Shadow Housing Minister, Emma Reynolds MP, saw first-hand the opportunities and possibilities existing new towns offer for housing, investment and regeneration on her visit to Skelmersdale on Thursday 4 September 2014.
West Lancashire MP Rosie Cooper invited Ms Reynolds to visit the area following Emma’s speech to Town and County Planning Association 2013 annual conference when she spoke about ‘how to drive forward a new generation of new towns and garden cities.’
MP Rosie invited Emma to see that there is still life in the old new towns, such as Skelmersdale, given the unfulfilled capacity of a town originally intended to have a population of 80,000 people.
During the afternoon visit MP Rosie and Emma Reynolds visited the Digmoor, Ashurst and Birch Green areas of the town to look at the original 1960s housing estates, the underpass systems for pedestrians, sites for future housing development, the refurbishment of existing stock along with the town centre.
Following a tour of the town the visit concluded with a roundtable discussion attended by local residents, a Skelmersdale councillor, local business representatives and a local headteacher who were able to offer their insights and experiences of living and working in Skelmersdale to Emma Reynolds.
Emma heard about how investment in the town is and could open up the town’s potential along with the issues and challenges facing the town and the lessons to be learnt from new towns.
Speaking after the visit, MP Rosie said:
“I am delighted that Emma took the time to visit Skelmersdale to see for herself what a fantastic town it is.
“As a country we need to be building 200,000 homes a year to meet demand. Original new towns can and should play a role and have a great deal to offer as Emma has seen on her visit to Skelmersdale.
“Housing is integral to everything that I am campaigning to deliver in Skelmersdale meeting the ambitions and aspirations for the town’s next 50 years. West Lancashire College’s campus is the beginning of that process along with the town centre redevelopment, a railway station, and attracting business, investment and jobs.
Emma Reynolds MP said:
“Thank you to Rosie for inviting me to visit Skelmersdale, which is the first of the new towns in the region I have visited. It struck me how beautifully green the town is.
“Having visited different areas of the town I can fully understand Rosie’s argument about the opportunities and possibilities within existing new towns.
“A message that was loud and clear from meeting with those who live and work in Skelmersdale and understand deeply the great things happening in the town but also the issues and challenges that need to be addressed.
“There are also lessons to be learnt, such as the need for pavements putting people not cars first and making the town more accessible for those walking as well as improving local transport links.
“Whilst housing is my responsibility and priority, just building homes is not the whole answer. We need to build communities.
“Rosie’s priorities and her campaigning for the town centre redevelopment are an example of our need to support communities.
“I look forward to continuing to work with Rosie on these issues and will take away a lot from my visit to Skelmersdale.”