Written evidence from English Rural Action
Ltd (ARSS 20)|
We have considered the first topic,
the implications of the abolition of regional
house building targets for levels of housing development,
with particular reference to the Sedgemoor area.
We conclude that the revocation of the draft South
West Regional Spatial Strategy may invite our local community
to reconsider the implications of setting RSS led local housing
targets. The dangers of over-development are not being faced up-to
and LPA's do not yet consider fully how to define stainable need
and site locations which will enhance our towns and villages and
cause least damage to food producing landscape.
ERA ltd is based in Sedgemoor and is part of the
Save Our Green Spaces forum, a wide affiliation of groups that
includes a common aim of preventing over-development and preserving
quality of life within sustainable planning objectives. eg Housing
near to employment and efficient transport links, energy efficiency
in new builds that are created for need, rather than just desire,
that compromises food production land that is becoming more relevant
to the well being of UK and the world as a whole.
1. Loss of certainty
We acknowledge that the revocation of the draft South
West Regional Strategy and of its predecessor, RPG 10, has removed
future certainty about housing numbers and allocations.
When the Treasury derived draft South West Regional
Strategy numbers were revoked it meant that the essential re-think
following the disastrous Barker Report was at last possible. Please
see attached research¹ re the 2004 warnings that were sent
to the ODPM that warned of the economic crash that would follow
the Treasury led planning disaster of 2005.
2. Removal of draft SWRSS housing targets
2.1 This has not resulted in any significant
reduction of the housing targets! Such targets were derived in
an economic climate of some 3.2% operating within a climate of
growth based upon a free open-market that has failed. Having now
considered the Local core strategy and local development framework
without the draft RSS in place, It is concluded that the issues
and reasons for our over-development led economic crash
are too complicated for the LPA to fully appreciate! This is evident
by the retention of near RSS excessive housing numbers.
3. Questioning of NEED for bulk new build
3.1 We have all along questioned the need for
this number of houses which appears to have been based on a 20-year
growth forecast of 3.2% per annum and on blanket Central Government
statistics rather than on local population trends and optimistic
3.2 We also query the "waiting list"
figures which we think are not accurate and simply try to justify
more new-build development for the sake of construction: We strongly
recommend that all Local Authorities should state with open data
how many people on each waiting list are in need and cannot be
accommodated in existing housing stock, and how many are already
in adequate accommodation but have put themselves on the list
to exploit more housing options from their Local Authority.
3.3 There also must be a better way of providing
houses for those in need than allowing 70% of unneeded open market
houses to be built to fund the 30% of new build "affordable"
homes which may prove to be needed.
3.4 We have also noted that there are currently
more houses for sale nationwide than there is demand for them.
We suspect members of the Committee will be aware like us of their
local newspaper's pages and pages of properties each week, for
sale or to let, at "affordable" prices or to meet the
needs of wealthier peoplewithout imposing more new build
on food growing green land.
3.5 We note too that in our area, and countrywide,
there are significant numbers of homes empty for the last six
months or longer which could be brought back into use, using Local
Authority powers if necessary, before any more of our countryside
and food producing land is lost to construction.
3.6 We are aware of our construction industry
being the biggest in Europe, the second biggest employer in England
and also a big net contributor to GDP. Nevertheless we think this
circumstance should not lead the Government or Local Authorities
blindly to permit unnecessary new build open market housing schemes
just to support the industry, whose skills ought better to be
applied to refurbishing and "greening" our existing
housing stock or to "Obama" style infrastructure projects
during this time of recession.
4. Post-RSS opportunity for genuinely sustainable
rates of house building
Sedgemoor District Council have failed to produce
a sustainable, level of new house building in preparing a Core
Strategy, having conducted various public consultations. We feel
that the Local Authorities, under the aegis of the Coalition's
Localism and Decentralisation proposals, need to be encouraged
to listen to their communities' wishes in designing the future
of the area. Rather than being vested interest led, and moving
farther away from settlement improvement by consolidation and
the reality of employment. See research attached in terms of our
submission to full council at the LDF CS².
The advantage of revocation of the draft South West
Regional Spatial Strategy has not been understood in Sedgemoor
District. It will not reduce food growing land take up loss within
Sedgemoor and the increasing in-balance of population increase
by way of new builds to employment opportunity deficit and facility
It is recommend that a fresh assessment of genuine
housing need be defined and availability of existing housing stock
(both social and private) is carried out by each Local Authority.
That the emphasis of house building for the sake
of creating open free market economic movement that has just failed,
is reviewed. That the Treasury cause via the Barker Report is
removed from any future close relationship with Town and Country
Planning policy. Instead that the Construction industry is provided
with an opportunity/incentive to provide for sustainable housing
need and re-design/rebuild out dated existing stock. This to jointly
provide energy efficiency gains reducing our high level of energy
generation need, while respecting and providing for Biodiversity
within designs and location.
That a review of the present and future value of
all food producing farm land and our nations food security is
studied in relation to the policy of building for desire and aspiration.
That a realistic study into the true western worlds economic outlook
is taken on board. This in the changed world employment stage
and before any future housing is allocated in the faint hope that
mass employment will just "turn up one day"! The UK
has now to face un-fair foreign completion in terms of the overheads
disparity spectrum, will this change in 20 or 50 years?