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

Written evidence from Save Our Green Spaces (ARSS 24)


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 ahead.

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 construction.

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 energy, &c.)

4.1  This is vitally important and should be on the statute books, via the Decentralisation and Localism Bill as indicated 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 local communities.

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 planning function

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 forecasts.

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 the data.


South West SOGS are not against house building. The SWRSS suffered from over complication, lack of consultation and forced agendas.

Local communities know what local communities need and want.

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.

September 2010

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