Legacy is often a much overused word. But that is precisely what Lord Beveridge envisaged for his flagship northern New Town of Newton Aycliffe, following the passing of the New Towns Act 1946. The seeds of this vision germinated as far back as 1942. Our town was very much his baby! He came to live here. The planners vision that encapsulated his ideas was of a town of neighbourhoods surrounding greens, as well as ‘predominantly single family housing at low density’. But the overarching feature were the greens; like arteries of green blood flowing through the town. This remained the distinguishing feature of the town for over 50 years. It is what made our town what it is and hopefully always will remain, environmentally green and pleasant. Then back in about 2007, with the imminent demise of Sedgefield Borough Council, plans were made to transfer the housing stock to basically a private company, called Sedgefield Homes. They were later to become Livin. Some, including myself, were alarmed at the prospect of not only council houses being transferred to this company, but also the greens and open spaces of our town. If they were not property developers why were they so keen to take control of our greens and green areas? Bob Fleming, as usual, was ahead of the game. After much protracted negotiations, very many of our greens came under the control of Great Aycliffe Town Council. They had been saved. But, in my opinion too much green space had also been ceded to Livin’s predecessor.
In July 2008, I wrote to the Newton News and also the Northern Echo expressing my alarm and doubts as to the long-term safety of our greens. Mr Brian Allen, Chief Executive of Sedgefield Borough Council replied in the most clear and unambiguous terms in a letter to the Northern Echo July 3 2008). He wrote: ‘the suggestion that we need ‘to protect our greens from the greedy eyes of property developers – who would certainly build further houses on these open spaces’ can only be described as wholly inaccurate and frankly absurd. The council has made it quite clear that the ‘offer document’ is a contract between the council and Sedgefield Borough Homes, the housing association, and we will ensure that all promises are met. The contract will contain covenants to ensure that green areas are protected and maintained, not just in Newton Aycliffe – the fear that open spaces will disappear and be replaced by new house building is therefore completely without foundation’. We go forward nine years and already Livin have used an open space in Baliol Road to develop new housing. They now plan to develop housing using up the green in front of Armstrong Close. What happened to these so called covenants?
We as councillors and residents have to fight these plans, one by one, until Livin get the message. Our town and its greens belong to us and not to Livin. We cannot allow a private company to change the face and environment of our town.
Derek G Atkinson Great Aycliffe Town Councillor and GARA Committee member. Denham Place