Telford

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Telford (/ˈtɛlfərd/) is a large new town in the borough of Telford and Wrekin and ceremonial county of Shropshire, England, approximately 13 miles (21 km) east of Shrewsbury, and 30 miles (48 km) west of Birmingham. With an estimated population of 162,300 in 2009, Telford is by far the largest town in Shropshire, and one of the fastest growing towns in the United Kingdom.

Telford now includes Ironbridge Gorge, a scenic tourist destination and UNESCO World Heritage Site. The town advertises itself as “The Birthplace of Industry”, due to its proximity to Coalbrookdale and other places in the Ironbridge Gorge area, which are internationally recognised as being important to the Industrial Revolution, and being to a large extent constructed on the Shropshire Coalfield. The River Severn flows along its southernmost boundary.

It is named after Thomas Telford, the famous civil engineer. The town was built in the 1960s and 1970s as a new town on previously industrial and agricultural land. Like other planned towns of the era, Telford was created from the merger of other, smaller settlements, most notably the towns of Wellington, Oakengates, Madeley and Dawley. Telford Shopping Centre, a modern shopping mall, was constructed at the new town’s geographical centre, along with an extensive Town Park. The M54 motorway was completed in 1983, connecting the town with the West Midlands conurbation.

Early settlement in the area was thought to be on the land that sloped up from the Weald Moors (an area north of the town centre) towards the line along which the Roman Watling Street was built. Farmland surrounded three large estates in the tenth century, namely Wellington, Wrockwardine and Lilleshall.

From the 13th century there was urban development in Wellington and Madeley, where Wenlock Priory founded a new town. Six monastic houses, founded in the 11th and 12th centuries, had large interests in the area’s economic growth. They collectively acquired almost half of the area, and profited from coal and ironstone mines and iron smithies on their estates.

The New Town was first designated on 16 January 1963 as Dawley New Town, covering 9,100 acres (37 km2) of Dawley, Wenlock, Oakengates, Wellington Rural District and Shifnal Rural District.[5] Development started, guided by the Dawley New Town Development Corporation, with the first homes on the new Sutton Hill housing estate being occupied in 1967. Initial planning and design concepts for Dawley New Town were produced by the Birmingham-based John Madin Design Group.

The Minister proposed an extension of 12,000 acres (49 km2) in 1968 (taking in the historic area of Ironbridge Gorge), which saw objections and a public inquiry take place. The Dawley New Town (Designation) Amendment (Telford) Order was made on 29 November 1968, extending the New Town area by 10,143 acres (41.05 km2) of “land lying within the urban districts of Oakengates and Wellington and the rural districts of Shifnal and Wellington”. This Order also renamed the new town Telford, after the Scottish-born civil engineer Thomas Telford who, in 1787, became Surveyor of Public Works for Shropshire. Other suggested names at the time were Dawelloak and Wrekin Forest City.

Most of the infrastructure was constructed from the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s with the major housing and commercial development occurring over three decades up to the early 1990s when the Development Corporation was wound up to be replaced by Commission for the New Towns, later English Partnerships, and most of the property was handed over to the then Wrekin District Council. In 1983, after fierce opposition and three public enquiries, the M54 motorway was completed, connecting the town to the M6 and thence the rest of the UK’s motorway network. Other major roads are the A5, A518 and A442, which is commonly known as the Eastern Primary or EP, and is officially branded Queensway.

Many of the new town’s residents were originally from the West Midlands conurbation, which includes Wolverhampton, Birmingham, Dudley and Walsall. The vast majority of the council house tenants in Telford were rehoused from inner city slums in Birmingham. Some controversy and bad feeling still exists in some communities as a result of what some saw as the influx of those from the city slums. The name “overspill” was often used as a derogatory term for these residents. Some individuals still refuse to put Telford in their address, instead using the original local name (such as Wellington or Dawley).(citation needed-own research?)

In 2007, a £250 million regeneration plan for the town centre was announced, which will include the pedestrianisation of the road surrounding the shopping centre, and the creation of new cafés, bars and shops which will lead to 1,750 new jobs. The reason for this expansion is that the original “centre” was only ever a shopping place with no real heart (See Shropshire Star June 3, 2004). Since the “centre” closed early evening, there was no nightlife at all in the area, the only major local entertainment areas being in Oakengates and Wellington.

Telford town centre lies approximately 21 kilometres (13 mi) east/south-east of Shrewsbury and 24 kilometres (15 mi) north-west of Wolverhampton. The town comprises 7,803 hectares (30.13 square miles) and its southern and eastern parts, between the Severn Gorge and Donnington Wood, include the East Shropshire coalfield. North and north-west Telford lie beyond the coalfield’s boundary fault on sandstone beds which, along with other Triassic formations, prevail over much of the North Shropshire plain. The town centre stands on a watershed, with land to the south draining towards the River Severn, and to the north the land slopes gently down towards the Weald Moors. The town is dominated by the Wrekin, a large hill of 407 m (1335 ft), located south-west of Wellington, straddling the border with the borough of Shrewsbury and Atcham.

Within the borough of Telford & Wrekin, the town is entirely parished. Telford has no single town council because of this, and the Mayor of the Borough of Telford and Wrekin is also de facto the town’s mayor. The town is also divided into Wards, within the Telford and Wrekin borough. These are used for electoral purposes and demographic surveys. Telford was created politically – but its attempts to make a cohesive town from the fusion of other independent, smaller towns: Wellington, Madeley, Hadley, Oakengates, Dawley, Ironbridge and Donnington have largely been successful. Despite this, the town has much clearer divisions than in other older towns, such as nearby Shrewsbury, which have developed into one consolidated urban area over time. Some small settlements to the south such as a part of Ironbridge and Broseley, while part of the Telford Urban Area, are administered by Shropshire Council.

Telford is the only settlement within the Telford parliamentary constituency, although some suburbs, such as Wellington, are located in The Wrekin, a neighbouring constituency.  Telford is administratively part of the West Midlands region.

In 1963 Dawley new town was intended to take 50,000 people from the West Midlands conurbation and so to grow to a town of 70,000 or more. By 1968 Telford was intended to take an additional 50,000 and grow to a town of 220,000 or more by 1991. By 1983, however, Telford’s population was just under 108,000, and it was generally thought that it might not reach 120,000 by the late 1980s.

Telford has a younger than average population, and a higher rate of teenage pregnancy than the national average, as well as relatively high levels of income deprivation with 15% of residents living in low income households. In addition the level of statutorily homeless households in 2004/05 was above average for England. The Telford and Wrekin area is a popular commuter zone, containing some relatively rural areas in the North and West of the borough. These are popular with commuters to the West Midlands conurbation, due to the good transport links provided by the A5/M54.

Telford’s population is prodominantly White, comprising 93.8% of the population. The next largest ethnic group is those of Asian descent, comprising 3.3% of the population, which is again less than the West Midlands at 8.0%, and England at 5.3%. However, the town and borough remains comparatively more ethnically diverse than the ceremonial county, with South Shropshire for example being 97.8% white.

During the economic crisis of the late 1960s (with unemployment doubling nationally during the second half of the decade), unemployment in the then-new town was initially high.

However, in 1967 Halesfield Industrial Estate was founded on the south-eastern edge of the town – the first real answer to Telford’s unemployment problems. Other large estates followed, in 1973 with Stafford Park just east of the town centre and in 1979 with Hortonwood, to the north, helping ease the unemployment crisis in a decade which saw an almost unbroken rise in unemployment.

In total, half a million square metres of factory space were provided between 1968 and 1983, making Telford an attractive investment area.

By 1976, Telford had begun to recruit industry from the U.S.A., Europe, and Japan. The foreign firms required larger factories, and they began to be built at Stafford Park. By 1983 over 2,000 jobs in Telford were provided by around 40 (mostly American) foreign companies. In contrast to industry in the Black Country at the time, these new companies focused on high-technology industries rather than the heavy and metal-finishing industries.

The new arrivals included the American company Unimation and three firms from Japan: Nikon U.K. Ltd., which opened a warehouse at Halesfield in 1983; video tape manufacturers Hitachi Maxell at Apley Castle in 1983; and office equipment manufacturers Ricoh, who took a 22-acre (89,000 m2) site for a factory at Priorslee next to the M54, and formed the first in Telford’s new enterprise zone.

Consequently, from the later 1970s, Telford began to attract high-technology firms and to diversify its industry, and the promotion of the Service industry also began to prosper, in the Telford Town Centre area. However, a deepening national recession meant that, despite the creation of new jobs, there were net job losses from 1979. Unemployment grew from 3.4 per cent in 1969 to over 8 per cent in 1972 and 22.3 per cent in 1983; long-term unemployment rose even faster. Nevertheless the rate of increase in unemployment was slowing down by 1983 and was making some progress against national and regional trends.[21]

Unemployment in Telford was still around the 20% mark – nearly double the national average at the time – as late as 1986. The Lawson Boom of the next three years saw that figure fall dramatically by the end of the decade, only for it to rise to a similarly high figure again by 1992 as a result of the early 1990s recession.

Telford has attracted several large IT services companies, including EDS who support the MOD contract from the Euston Park site, as well as a vast array of clients across the world from the Plaza building. Also Capgemini and Fujitsu employ a significant number of staff in the area, mainly supporting their governmental client, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC). The expansion in these job sectors provided a great asset to Telford’s economic recovery after 1992. By August 2007, the success story of Telford’s economy had seen unemployment shrink to 3.3% – a fraction of its peak 15 years earlier.

However, the subsequent recession meant that unemployment in the area had risen to 5% by February 2011.

The Shropshire Star evening newspaper is based at Ketley, Telford.

In recent times there have been significant job losses, with the movement of 500 Defence Logistics Organisation (DLO) jobs at the MoD base at Sapphire House, Telford, to Bristol. The closure of the local sugar beet factory at Allscott in 2007 is another recent example.

The commercial centre of the town is the aptly named Telford Town Centre, located off Junction 5 of the M54 motorway. It is home to the administrative headquarters of Telford & Wrekin council, the large Telford Shopping Centre (and the accompanying Town Park), various office blocks, such as the blue office towers (Telford Plaza), and the Windsor Life building. The Forge retail park and a large Odeon Cinema are also located in the area, as well as Thomas Telford School, which is within walking distance. Telford also houses one of the Midland’s only ice skating rinks near the newly built Telford International Centre (TIC). The TIC comprises a number of hall and event spaces. It holds parties, conferences, concerts and is the current home of the UK Snooker Championship in December.

A major Shropshire landmark, also now part of Telford, is The Iron Bridge, located in Ironbridge. It was the first bridge of its size in the world made out of cast iron. In the same area is the Ironbridge Gorge, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The most important landmark in the area is The Wrekin. There is also the Lilleshall Monument erected to the Duke of Sutherland, which has recently been restored.

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