Abolition of Regional Spatial Strategies: a planning vacuum? - Communities and Local Government Committee Contents

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 on Sedgemoor

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 housing

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 job forecasts.

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 people—without 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.

5.  Conclusion

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 over-burden.


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?

September 2010

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