Written evidence from Save Our Green Spaces
Save Our Green Spaces is an organisation set up to
inform the local residents of the consequences that the South
West Regional Spatial Strategy (SWRSS) would have on the lives
of people living and working on the eastern fringes of Bristol.
It was felt that the Top-down RSS numbers had been
introduced, and were about to be imposed on residents with ineffective
consultation. The limited consultation was very poorly advertised
resulting in the vast majority of the public being unaware of
its existence and its implications.
Discussions with the local authority at that time
resulted in "stone walling".
Following the creation of the www.saveourgreenspaces.org
website it became apparent that similar groups had been set up
across the whole of South West England to raise awareness of the
impending imposition of the SWRSS. An affiliation of groups was
then created in the south-west to bring groups together to create
a wider voice and to reduce duplication.
This culminated in the submission of some 37,000
letters of objection to the SWRSS from the south west region,
widely reported as the largest response ever received.
Without the creation of SOGS we are sure the public
would not have been aware of the SWRSS and it would therefore
have been brought into force by the previous government.
With the abolition of the RSSs the country now has
an opportunity to build on the concept of local community involvement.
Local groups will undoubtedly have specific points
to raise and will feed into this inquiry direct. I have concentrated
on general points.
I will now go through the individual terms of reference:
The Committee has decided to undertake an inquiry
into the revocation and abolition of regional spatial strategies.
The Committee will be focussing particularly on the implications
for house building, especially:
The implications of the abolition of regional
house building targets for levels of housing development
1.1 Within the South West we feel that house
building target should revert to a proven needs based system overseen
by local authorities in consultation with local communities. This
will lead to a better more balanced society where housing, work
and leisure are in harmony. By taking this approach urban and
rural ghettos and future slums will not be created. An example
of a built ghetto (future slum) is the imposed development at
Siston Hill, Warmley nearr Kingswood, Bristol. This development
is already showing signs of social deprivation, having only been
completed in the last few years. All parties, locals, parish council,
local authority were against the development, warning that it
would not work. Central government dictated that it should go
1.2 The implications of the abolition of regional
house building targets can only be positive.
The likely effectiveness of the Government's plan
to incentivise local communities to accept new housing development,
and the nature and level of the incentives which will need to
be put in place to ensure an adequate long-term supply of housing
2.1 Local communities will not require much incentivisation
to accept new housing development. In the many consultations held
by groups around the South West, the issue is generally not simply
the question over the need for housing but the numbers of houses
that are proposed without the supporting employment, community
facilities and infrastructure etc.
2.2 Most if not all communities in the South
West suffer from a lack of good quality social housing. Social
housing can be both housing association owned and privately owned.
We will all know of many examples of where our children of less
well off local people have to move away from the area they grew
up or families are located. This has led to a fragmentation of
the social fabric and the gradual erosion of the 'community'.
Incentivisation should take the form of raised proportion of good
quality social housing spread through out developments. It should
take the form of financial support for local authorities, parish
councils or community groups. The properties so built should be
kept as social housing so that investment purchasing doesn't take
them out of the social house pool within a few years of their
The Committee understands that the Government
intends to announce further details of its plans for incentives
"shortly", and would welcome comments on the adequacy
and appropriateness of those incentives when the details are available
3.1 This would be most welcome and we as a group
would be keen to participate in any discussions.
The Committee will also be considering:
The arrangements which should be put in place
to ensure appropriate cooperation between local planning authorities
on matters formerly covered by regional spatial strategies (eg.
waste, minerals, flooding, the natural environment, renewable
4.1 This is vitally important and should be on
the statute books, via the Decentralisation and Localism Bill
in the Queen's speech. South Gloucestershire local authority have
already moved in this direction and have a consultation process
in place for most of their activities affecting communities (although
it could be improved).
4.2 Some matters will require a simple correspondence
consultation, but there should be provision for proposals with
greater impact requiring local referendums eg waste handling,
renewable energy installations.
4.3 If this process is handled successfully there
will be less need for campaign groups to highlight issues affecting
The adequacy of proposals already put forward
by the Government, including a proposed duty to co-operate and
the suggestion that Local Enterprise Partnerships may fulfil a
5.1 Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) may
fulfil a planning role but they must be independent and not controlled
by developers and therefore have hidden agendas. Their operation
should be fully transparent and open to scrutiny by local communities.
The planning websites are already highlighting that LEPs may be
a way to get development underway.
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
6.1 All data should be published or made freely
available via a website. The validity and integrity of the data
should be highlighted. Any data that is out of date should be
identified as such so that it can not be used to form unfounded
conclusions. A clear example of this is the population growth
6.2 Teams could be set up to manage and update
this data for the benefit of all. This includes local authorities,
parish councils and local community groups. Again if there is
openness there will be less need for campaign groups to challenge
South West SOGS are not against house building. The
SWRSS suffered from over complication, lack of consultation and
Local communities know what local communities need
South West SOGS is now beginning to get calls for
help and advice from across the whole of England. It is apparent
that the comments above equally apply to all the RSSs.