‘Satellite towns like Castleford falling behind their city neighbours’

Castleford town centre
Castleford town centre
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The gap between the social and economic performance of Castleford and the neighbouring city of Leeds is bigger than any comparable area of the country, according to a leading think tank.

The Talk of the Town report by Demos analysing the success of cities and towns across England reveals that the majority of towns in Yorkshire and the Humber perform less well than their nearest city in many areas.

Denise Jeffery of Wakefield council

Denise Jeffery of Wakefield council

Its co-author said this reflected the national trend, with the majority of English satellite towns “eclipsed by their nearest cities in some of the most important respects - such as residents’ health and level of qualifications”.

Of the 42 towns in the cross-party think tank’s sample, 26 score worse than their neighbouring city on measures of overall socio-economic performance, while 16 outperform their comparator city.

Six out of the ten Yorkshire towns surveyed, Castleford, Rotherham, Barnsley, Dewsbury, Pontefract and Shipley, performed worse than their nearest city.

But Beverley, in East Yorkshire, was rated as the second highest over-performer compared with Hull, ranked behind only West Bridgford in Nottinghamshire. Grimsby, Pudsey and Shipley also did better than Hull, Leeds and Bradford respectively. London and its surrounding towns were not included in the report.

“Compared to their neighbouring cities, towns tend to under-perform socio-economically.”

Quote from the Demos ‘Talk of the Town’ report

Report co-author, Ally Paget, said: “The findings of this report suggest that the majority of English satellite towns are eclipsed by their nearest cities in some of the most important respects - such as residents’ health and level of qualifications.

“It is clear that, for better or worse, England’s towns have different social and economic circumstances from their urban neighbours. If efforts at securing growth are too focused on cities, ignoring what towns need and what they have to offer, there is a very real danger that England’s towns will continue to be left behind.”

Imelda Redmond, chief executive of charity 4Children, said: “As this report makes clear, England’s towns are being left behind. Despite the welcome devolution agenda from governments over the past few decades which has seen cities outside London benefit from increased funding, towns have been overlooked.

“This research also underlines just how strong the North/South divide is and how far we have got to go to close the gap. 4Children will be looking further into the impact on children, young people and their families growing up in the towns which have fared worse.”

Castleford, which the report’s authors said was the biggest under-performer of all the towns surveyed compared with neighbouring Leeds, also scored poorly in a similar report by Demos earlier this month setting out the best places to live and work.

Community leaders defended the town, highlighting projects such as the £44.5m scheme to build thousands of new homes and transform Castleford, which is currently being carried out.

Developer Lateral Property Group was also granted consent for the £135m Five Towns Park - which will include a new stadium for Castleford Tigers, a retail park and a food store - earlier this year.

Castleford suffered a major blow last month when luxury fashion brand Burberry announced it was to close its local factory and move its 700 staff to a new site in Leeds.

Responding to the report, Denise Jeffery, cabinet member for economic growth and skills at Wakefield council, said: “We are ambitious for Castleford and for whole of the Wakefield district.

“As a resident of Castleford I’m confident in saying it’s a great place to live and work.

“We and other small towns have faced tough economic times and we are working hard to make sure the five towns, of which Castleford is one, will benefit from the prosperity of the wider district and the wider Leeds City Region.

“The progression of a university centre for the district is one of the ways we are working with partners to support future generations to develop their skills level.

“This will support us in our ambition to bring more jobs and highly skilled businesses to our area.”

Demos said its report “sought to capture the unique local profiles and needs of both towns and cities – and identify where they could most benefit from targeted support”.

It said: “While compared to their neighbouring cities, towns tend to under-perform socio-economically, in absolute terms, they were found to have either very high or low socio-economic profiles, with cities falling in the middle range.

“Importantly, however, while towns on average beat their nearest cities on 22 of the 30 measures, they tended to be least successful on some of the most important criteria for a place’s social and economic strength – including residents’ qualification levels, and their health and wellbeing.”

Earlier this month, the head of education watchdog Ofsted said cities like Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield needed to work with the towns on their borders to raise attainment in schools and close skills gaps across a wider area.

Sir Michael Wilshaw of Ofsted said many of the worst performing local education authority areas, where fewer than 60 per cent of the children attend good or outstanding secondary schools, are satellite towns of major cities.

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