The Skelmersdale New Town (Designation) Order was approved 9 October 1961 and the Skelmersdale Development Corporation was formally constituted 25 January 1962. The Corporation was wound up in 1985, with the housing stock being transferred to West Lancashire District Council 1 April, other assets transferred to the Commission for New Towns 2 April and the Corporation itself was formally dissolved 30 June.
For an overall view of the work of the Corporation, the key introductory source is the series of Annual Reports (NTSK 2/7), though the catalogue of the Board 'Supporting Papers' will be found useful in pinpointing the start of major projects and other significant records. Various secondary sources are available in the search room, including Sands, N., The Skelmersdale Story, also copies of the Basic/Master Plan (see NTSK 2/6/1-2 for archive copies) and copies of the Population and Social Survey report for 1965-71, 1973, 1984 (for a full set, see NTSK 5/2).
Skelmersdale Development Corporation
The New Town was set up with the purpose of assisting the relief of overcrowding in North Merseyside. The site, comprising some 1,630 hectaress, was designated by Order dated 9th October 1961 and encompassed almost the whole of Skelmersdale Urban District Council (UDC) and parts of Up Holland and Ormskirk Urban Districts and Wigan Rural District. Skelmersdale Development Corporation (DC) was formally constituted on 25th January 1962.
The DC appointed L. Hugh Wilson, as Consultant Architect/Planner on 1st November 1962 for the preparation of the Outline Plan. The Skelmersdale New Town Applications Directive was issued on 2nd July 1962, this allowed for all planning permissions for development within the designated area to be referred to the DC for comment. The first phase of the DC's offices at High Street were formally opened on 10th October 1963. An Interim Report on planning proposals was presented to the DC by L. Hugh Wilson on 20th September 1963. At this juncture the DC prepared proposals for residential development at New Church Farm, a scheme comprising approximately 600 dwellings with garages and shops on a 16 hectares site to the east of the existing town. The Lord Mayor of Liverpool laid the first brick of the first dwelling on 24th June 1964. The first dwelling was completed on 11th November.
The Master Plan was submitted to the Minister of Housing and Local Government (Rt. Hon. Richard Crossman) on 18th June 1965. By 31st March 1966 a total of 296 dwellings had been completed, mostly at New Church Farm. Work started on 385 dwellings at Little Digmoor in August 1965. The Master Plan received approval from the Minister on 26th May 1966. By the end of March 1967 all 612 dwellings in the New Church Farm contract had been completed. Within twelve months three further housing schemes had been completed at Little Digmoor, Chequer Lane and Pennylands (a total of 634 houses in the year).
The Minister made the Skelmersdale New Town (Designation) Amendment Order 1969 on 5th February 1969, which enlarged the designated area by approximately 38.2 hectares, of which 37.8 hectares extended the Pimbo Industrial Area. At the end of the 1960s (31st March 1969) the estimated population of the New Town was 18,450. A total of 1,816 dwellings had been completed for letting and a further 154 for sale. In terms of industrial and commercial development, 163,140sq. m of industrial space and 11 shops had been completed.
By 31st March 1970 the contract for Tanhouse 1 and 2 in the Hillside area was substantially completed. Construction of the first phase of the retail shopping centre and bus station started on 1st February 1971. During the following twelve months work started on the Birch Green 3, 5, 6 and 7 areas. The DC received a High Commendation for its Tanhouse 4 housing scheme in the Department's Good Design in Housing 1971.
By 31st March 1973 building contracts were completed at Holland Moor 2, Tanhouse 5 and Birch Green 1 and 2. During the year 1972-3 two new primary schools were opened, Delphside County Primary School at Tanhouse 5 and St. Jon's R.C. Primary School in Birch Green. The Birch Green 7 contact was completed during the following year as was the Clough Fold Country Primary School in Birch Green 5. The Concourse Shopping Centre, the first phase of the Town Centre development, opened for trade on 11th June 1973. Twin cinemas in the bus station building at the Town Centre were opened in January 1974.
The population of the New Town at 31st March 1975 was estimated at 39,900. A total of 7,048 dwellings had been completed for letting and a further 730 for sale by this date. In terms of industry, 348,649sq. m. of industrial floor space had been completed and in addition 133 shops. By the end of March 1976 the Westbank and High Street were completed. Housing schemes at Ashurst 1, Birch Green 10 (south) and Birch Green 4 and 8 were completed by March 1977.
During April 1977 the Secretary of the State for the Environment (Rt. Hon. Peter Shore) announced that the New Town would not be extended and that subject to necessary consultations the DC would be wound up within five years. In turn this meant that the ultimate target population would be reduced to about 61,000. By March 1978 the scheme at Chapel House 3 was completed, which was the last sizeable site for housing development in the Old Skelmersdale area. By the following March schemes were completed at Chapel House 3, Birch Green 10 (North) and Ashurst 3A and 3B. In September 1978 the DC handed over to the Co-operative Bank Ltd., Phase 1 of the Delf House office development, comprising 3,930 sq. m. in the Town Centre.
At the end of the 1970s (31st March 1979) the estimated population of the New Town was 39,500. During the lifetime of the DC 8,829 dwellings for letting had been completed and a further 968 for sale. Phase 2 of the Delf House office complex, comprising 3,600 sq. m. of floor space, was completed during 1979-80. During the following year the Minister (Rt. Hon. Michael Heseltine) announced that the dissolution of the DC had been postponed until 31st March 1985. The housing schemes at Ashurst 4A1, 4B (304 dwellings) were completed by March 1981.
During June 1981 the scheme at Ashurst 4A2 was completed. A month later Marlborough Court, a sheltered housing scheme was completed at Ashurst 2. These two completions marked the end of the DC's continuous rented house building programme. (A sheltered housing scheme at Tanhouse 4 was commenced during 1983-4). By March 1983 a total of 1,728 dwellings had been sold to sitting tenants - a policy which had started in May 1979. Within a year the figure had risen to over 2,000, representing 23% of the DC's rented housing stock.
In July 1983 the Minister formally directed the DC and West Lancashire District Council to consult about the housing transfer. Following further consultation with the Minister a scheme was drawn up with a transfer date of 1st April 1985 - in effect a housing stock of 7,296 dwellings was transferred. After formal consultation with Lancashire County Council and West Lancashire District Council, the Minister made an order, dated 5th March 1985, to transfer our assets and liabilities to the Commission for the New Towns (CNT) on 2nd April 1985.
During the lifetime of the DC 9,417 had been completed for letting and 1,484 for sale. A total of 488,067sq m. of industry space; 127 shops; and 20,820sq. m. of office space had also been completed. The estimated population of the new town was 41,800 at time of transfer to CNT.
Staff Numbers and Key Officers
Staff in post as at 31st March 1963 totalled 33, divided as follows:
General Manager 1
Chief Officers 2
Architectural, Planning and Quantity Surveying 8
Manual workers 4
As at 31st March 1965 staff numbers totalled 195 in post with a further 22 appointments made but duties not yet commenced. Staff in post were divided as follows:
General Manager's 2
Legal and Administrative 25
Architectural and Planning 81
Manual and Domestic Staff 21
During the year 1967-8 administrative reorganisation took place. The Chief Quantity Surveyor was deemed as having a position, which warranted independent status and direct access to the General Manager. Therefore a separate section was created.
At the end of the 1960s (31st March 1969) staff in post numbered 429 (a further 7 were still to commence their duties), divided as follows:
General Manager's 7
Legal and Administrative 40
Finance and Housing 36
Architectural and Planning 92
Quantity Surveying 19
Manual and Domestic Staff 118
Staff numbers as at 31st March 1975 totalled 373 managerial, professional, technical and clerical staff; and 259 manual and domestic employees (164 full-time and 95 part-time). At the end of the 1970s (31st March 1979) staff numbers totalled 383 managerial, professional, technical and clerical staff; and 198 manual and domestic employees (116 full-time and 83 part-time).
The total number of employees at 31st March 1982 was 477 (full time equivalents). To reach this level the DC had to make redundant 35 members of staff mainly in the technical departments. When the Planning Director, Miss Evans, retired in 1983, A.D. Hall took over a new post as Technical Director responsible for the department of planning and architecture and the engineering department.
As a result of housing transfer and dissolution of the DC 135 manual and non-manual staff were made redundant.
A.J. Kentish Barnes (1962-9) retired
G.H. Heywood (1969-75)
A.J.E. Taylor (1975-8)
W.A.D. Windham (1979-85)
G.H. Heywood (1962-9)
Robert Foulkes (1969-77)
W.A.D. Windham (1977-9)
A. Waterworth (1979-85)
General Manager (Managing Director from 1976)
George G. Watson (1962-6) d.1966
Richard W. Phelps (1967-71) (n.b. took up similar position at Central Lancs DC)
Ian Gray (1972-6)
Edgar Bradbury (1976-85)
Chief Finance Officer (Financial Director from ?1974)
K.A. Wallis (1962-74)
S. Spencer (1974-85)
C.H. Garside (1962-72) (n.b. took up similar position at Central Lancs DC)
A.D. Hall (1972-83)
Chief Legal Officer
A. Bradbury (1963-76)
H. Humphryes (1976-85)
Chief Architect and Planning Officer (Planning Director and Chief Architect from 1974: Technical Director from 1983)
W.D.C. Lyddon (1963-7)
R.W. Colwell (1967-71) (n.b. took up similar position at East Kilbride DC)
J.D. Procter (1971-4) (n.b. took up similar position at Central Lancs DC)
Miss R.B. Evans (1974-83)
A.D. Hall (1983-5)
Chief Estates Officer
B.E. Cresswell (1965-80)
B.E.L. Roberts (1980-5)
Chief Quantity Surveyor
W.C. Taylor (?-1983)
A.W. McNaught (1983-5)