Written evidence from the North West Regional
Leaders and the North West Regional Development Agency (ARSS 152)|
This is a joint submission from the North West Regional
Leaders Board (formerly known as 4NW until the end of September
2010) and the North West Regional Development Agency.
From the outset, North West Regional Leaders Board
and the North West Regional Development Agency wish to make it
clear that they are not advocating the reinvention of Regional
Spatial Strategies (RSS) and related processes by the backdoor.
However, by focussing this response on the practical steps we
are taking already here in the North West, to ensure that the
evidence and integrated priorities are not lost to LEPs, as well
as considering how we can ensure that a wider perspective is provided
on planning proposals with impacts beyond local boundaries, we
are able to provide useful information for the Committee to consider
within the context of the inquiry parameters.
Essentially there has been no major disagreement
in the North West in relation to the housing figures identified
in RSS. Following the revocation of RSS, North West Regional Leaders
Board published a note outlining what the "option 1"
housing figures were for each local authority. This note can be
downloaded at http://www.4nw.org.uk/downloads/documents/aug_10/4nw_1281103278_Option_1_housing_figures.pdf.
The revocation of RSS has also resulted in some authorities
now finding it difficult to continue to pursue the levels previously
envisaged, despite continued need to provide affordable housing
to support the region's growing communities and economic ambitions.
As a consequence some are now reviewing their figures as part
of the Local development Framework process. The Select Committee
is reminded that a crucial difference between the North West and
the South is that many in the North West want more new houses,
provided they support economic and other priorities, so it
is more about location than numbers.
Arrangements which should be put in place to ensure
appropriate cooperation between local planning authorities on
matters formerly covered by regional spatial strategies
The abolition of Regional Strategies has generated
a diverse range of reactions of both support and opposition from
right across the political, professional, business, social and
environmental spectrum, particularly with regard to housing numbers.
However Regional Strategies were not just about housing numbers.
When the Secretary of State published his "Guidance
for Local Planning Authorities following the revocation of Regional
Strategies", he acknowledged a need for cooperation across
local authorities on a number of topics. The direct implications
for the changes now being made to North West Regional Leaders
Board, coupled with the recent announcements about the abolition
of Government Offices and Regional Development Agencies has significant
implications in terms of loss, or potential loss, of existing
expertise and capacity to undertake this work.
There is a need for arrangements to be put in place
to ensure appropriate cooperation between local planning authorities
and emerging LEPs on matters formerly covered by RSS and setting
out some suggested ways forwardwe don't think there is
a need to cover every specific topic individually, however we
have identified the key areas below. Linked to this is the need
for local authorities to understand what is required of them in
terms of the proposed duty to cooperate. The real issue is the
need to assemble some sort of credible strategic planning process,
to provide private sector confidence, and the key to this is putting
flesh on the bones of the duty to cooperate.
(a) Cooperation to Identify Shared Priorities
Here in the North West pioneering work has already
being undertaken, which resulted in the publication in August
2010 of "Future North West: Our Shared Priorities".
This non-statutory framework to guide Local Authorities and others
in the new LEP-based world on an integrated set of priorities
which cross Local Authority boundaries and can only be addressed
via collaboration at higher spatial scales (see http://www.4nw.org.uk/whatwedo/?page_id=759).
This builds on a substantial programme of work by
private, public and third sector partners from the length and
breadth of the North West. This work was originally undertaken
to support the development of the North West Regional Strategy
(RS2010) but now underpins "Future North West". It is
based on a sound and comprehensive evidence base. In this context,
arrangements have been put into place in the North West to make
the Regional Strategy evidence base available to local authorities
and one of the regional transitional project boards is considering
future arrangements to consider how best to review the evidence
It has also benefited from a sustainability assessment and an
analysis of the North West's environmental limits as well as extensive
stakeholder engagement and public consultation.
The challenge now is how private, public and third
sector partners can take forward the vision, themes, outcomes
and objectives of "Future North West" and in particular
the 12 "big ticket" issues to be addressed across the
1. Develop the enterprise capabilities of our
people through education and skills.
2. Develop our world-leading advanced manufacturing,
biomedical and digital and creative industries.
3. Develop our world-class research, science
and innovation capability, particularly at Daresbury.
4. Develop our low carbon energy offer, especially
in nuclear and marine renewables, for example through the Energy
5. Develop Next Generation Access digital connectivity.
6. Improve rail connectivity across the North
West and tackle transport pinch points, especially the Northern
Hub and securing High Speed Rail access.
7. Improve international connectivity via Manchester
Airport and Liverpool Superport.
8. Reduce levels of ill-health, health inequalities,
poverty and worklessness.
9. Increase the number, and quality, of private
and third sector jobs and social enterprises.
10. Develop our sport, culture and quality of
place offer, based on our world-famous places, heritage and environmental
assets, particularly Manchester, Liverpool, Chester and the Lake
11. Enhance our natural environment and resolve
emerging pinch points in our critical (utilities) and green infrastructure.
12. Ensure high-quality, energy efficient and
affordable housing in the right locations.
(b) Establishing the need for minerals and
Minerals planning authorities will have responsibility
for continuing to plan for a steady and adequate supply of aggregate
minerals to support economic growth. They will need to do this
within the longstanding arrangements for minerals planning. Currently
technical advice is provided by the Regional Aggregate Working
Parties (RAWP), including their current ongoing work in sub-apportioning
the CLG guidelines for 2005-2020 to planning authority levelNorth
West Regional Leaders Board has been working with the RAWP secretariat
(Cheshire West and Chester Council) to deliver this in recent
(c) Establishing the need for waste management
Planning Authorities will need to continue to press
ahead with their waste plans, and provide enough land for waste
management facilities to support the sustainable management of
waste (including the move away from disposal of waste by landfill).
Data and information prepared by partners will continue to assist
in this process. For the transitional period this will continue
to be the data and information which has been collated by the
local authority and industry and other public bodies who currently
form the Regional Waste Technical Advisory Body (RTAB). Up until
now the secretariat function for the RTAB had been provided by
NWRLB and regular monitoring reports have been published (see
In the longer term it is unclear how the Government intend for
this function to be transferred to local authorities, though already
Local authorities are cooperating to ensure that the RTAB continues
(d) Regional policies on the natural environment
The Government is encouraging local authorities to
continue to work together, and with communities, on conservation,
restoration and enhancement of the natural environmentincluding
biodiversity, geo-diversity and landscape interests. It expects
local authorities to continue to draw on available information,
including data from partners, to address cross boundary issues
such as the provision of green infrastructure and wildlife corridors.
In the North West, a lot of very successful work has taken place
on Green Infrastructure including award winning work by North
West Regional Leaders Board and partners on the North West Green
Infrastructure Guide (see http://www.4nw.org.uk/documents/?page_id=4&category_id=266).
(e) Regional policies on flooding and coastal
Local authorities will need to continue to work together
across administrative boundaries to plan development that addresses
flooding and coastal change. For flooding matters local authorities
already have a duty to co-operate under the Floods and Water Management
Act. The Environment Agency will continue to work with local authorities
individually and/or jointly to provide technical support on these
matters. The Coalition agreement is clear that we should prevent
unnecessary building in areas of high flood risk. In this respect
North West Regional Leaders Board has recently undertaken work
with the Environment Agency to update the Regional Strategic Flood
Risk Appraisal (see http://www.4nw.org.uk/documents/?page_id=4&category_id=320).
(f) Regional policies on renewable and low
The Government expects that through their Local Development
Frameworks, local authorities will contribute to the move to a
low carbon economy, cut greenhouse gas emissions, help secure
more renewable and low carbon energy to meet national targets,
and to adapt to the impacts arising from climate change. In doing
so, the Government has indicated that planning authorities may
find it useful to draw on data that was collected by the Regional
Leaders' Boards and more recent work, including assessments of
the potential for renewable and low carbon energy. In this respect
North West Regional Leaders Board has already made all such information
it holds available via the website (see http://www.4nw.org.uk/documents/?page_id=4&category_id=16).
In addition further research is currently being undertaken by
the Northwest Regional Development Agency on the topic.
(g) Regional policies on transport
Local authorities will need to continue to ensure
their land use and local transport plans are mutually consistent,
and deliver the most effective and sustainable development for
their area. The Government expects local authorities to work with
each other and with businesses and communities to consider strategic
transport priorities and cross boundary issues. Here in the North
West we have achieved a lot on delivering transport priorities
through the RFA process and providing a non-statutory high level
strategic framework via the recently published "Future North
West" (see http://www.4nw.org.uk/whatwedo/?page_id=759).
(h) Changes to Green Belt
The Government has made clear it is committed to
the protection of the Green Belt and it believes the revocation
of Regional Strategies will prevent top-down pressure to reduce
the Green Belt protection. Local Planning Authorities will continue
to apply the national policies as set out in PPG2. As part of
their preparation or revision of Local Development Frameworks,
the Government recognises that planning authorities will need
to consider the desirability of new Green Belt or adjustment of
an existing Green Belt boundary, working with other local planning
authorities as appropriate. In the past North West Regional Leaders
Board's predecessors, the North West Regional Assembly and 4NW
have played a key coordinating role to ensure joint working in
sub regions eg the Merseyside Green Belt Study in 2004.
How the data and research collated by the now-abolished
Regional Local Authority Leaders' Boards should be made available
to local authorities, and what arrangements should be put in place
to ensure effective updating of that research and collection of
further research on matters crossing local authority boundaries?
Throughout its existence, North West Regional Leaders
Board has always sought to be open and transparent in ensuring
that all research and evidence that was collected during the Regional
Spatial Strategy/Regional Strategies processes. To this end published
evidence has been made available via the North West Regional Leaders
Board and Northwest Regional Development Agency websites. This
has recently being revamped to reflect the changed circumstances
with dedicated pages being established for documents (see http://www.4nw.org.uk/documents/?page_id=4)
and the Regional Strategy evidence base (see http://www.4nw.org.uk/whatwedo/?page_id=761).
Ultimately the content of these web pages will be transferred
to a publicly accessible archived website. Once established,
the archived website will be transferred to the server of St Helens
MBC in order to prevent any ongoing costs associated with hosting
and ensure that its long term availability is maintained.
Looking towards the future it will be necessary to
determine arrangements for how Local Authorities and the emerging
LEP's access the intelligence and research they will need to be
able to keep under review the performance of the regional economy
and the definition of priorities going forward. There are also
likely to be specific requirements for research from time to time.
A good example of this is the work on Regional Economic
Forecasting (see http://www.nwriu.co.uk/about_us/working_with/regional_economic_forecasting.aspx).
Until now the Northwest Regional Development Agency via the Research
& Intelligence Unit has commissioned the Regional Economic
forecasting panel to provide a baseline forecast for the region
which has provided a direct input to the development of the Regional
Strategy/Future North West. In the past a number of different
forecasts had been used in different regional and sub regional
the strategies and this has led to inconsistencies, double counting
and a degree of confusion. Without sacrificing any of its independence,
the Panel has produced on a regular basis a single set of forecasts
to underpin the Regional Strategy and other work in the region.
In doing so, it has drawn for the first time on the work of not
just one forecasting house, but three, before making its own judgements
on the most likely long-term outcome for the region. This base
forecast for the North West as a whole is an essential prerequisite
to the subsequent discussions on the aspirations of the region
and its five sub-regions. However the unresolved question now
is how will this activity be funded and who will undertake it?
Work being undertaken in the North West on transitional
To complement the formulation and submission of Local
Enterprise Partnerships (LEP) bids from the North West, ongoing
collaborative work is being undertaken by Local Authorities, North
West Regional Leaders Board, Northwest Regional Development Agency
and representatives from Social, Economic and environmental partners
to facilitate the development of key principles, capacity and
management arrangements for future functional priorities, which
are considered crucial to promote the orderly and structured transition
to new arrangements, as a consequence of the abolition of both
the Northwest Regional Development Agency and GONW. A series of
Task and Finish Groups have been set up for specific work areas
covering a diverse range of issues including some directly relevant
to the terms of this inquiry:
Planning: evaluate what if any role there should
be for providing advice up from sub regions/regions on planning
applications referred to the Secretary of State under section
77 of Town & Country Planning Act 1990. [Otherwise we risk
these matters being determined centrally without any input on
what are seen to be regional or local economic priorities]. The
Task & Finish Group is also considering looking at what (if
any) role there should be for brokering between national, sub
regional and local interests in providing a clear united, rather
than fragmented, North West view on a number of national planning
and infrastructure initiatives which have a substantial impact
across local boundaries. These could include:
nationally significant infrastructure projects dealt
with by the PINS major infrastructure unit (which will replace
the Infrastructure Planning Commission);
transport infrastructure including high speed rail,
airport and port developments;
proposed national planning framework and policy statements;
marine plans and consents to marine activities dealt
with by Marine Management Organisation; and
future energy supply generation.
- Research and Intelligence: as outlined above,
it will be necessary to determine future arrangements to ensure
access to up to date intelligence and research is available, providing
a robust evidence base which underpins policy development at sub
regional and local level, Whilst at the same time ensuring that
such work keeps under review the performance of the regional economy
and the definition of priorities going forward.