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

Written evidence from Finham Residents Association (ARSS 46)

Finham is an area on the south side of Coventry adjoining the Warwickshire border. Our Association represents the 1,900 houses in the area and has a membership of 80% of all residents.

We submit our summarised views on the RSS below. We have submitted additional information to Mr Eric Pickles MP regarding our views on our wider experience gained from the Coventry Core Strategy and have contrasted both with the more positive experience of the Highways Authority's public enquiry regarding the A45/A46 Coventry Toll Bar Junction.

Our experience of the Regional Spatial Strategy stems from attending the Public examination on June 4 2009 at Molineux. National bodies such as the CPRE put forward strong and valid arguments against the proposals and these represented the wide public concern. Local council representatives also voiced concern over the excessive proposals for new dwellings. The subsequent Report did not reflect these concerns and indeed were contrary to the views expressed at the Enquiry. Many of the legitimate concerns and evidence given were not reflected in the final Report.

It was disturbing to witness the extent and time invested with developers (and their professional advisors) in contrast to the little afforded to the general public, who in the long term will be the most affected by the outcomes. More time and additional support should have been invested in realistic Public Consultation in order for members of the public to appreciate what was being proposed and the processes involved so they contribute more effectively. Much of the money that was spent in meeting with Stakeholders and producing glossy documents should have been used to explain to the public exactly what was proposed in clear and precise terms that could be understood by everyone. The use of acronyms in Reports sets up a barrier between those who know what they mean and the general public.

The financial implications of RSS process should not be used to justify the retention of any of its conclusions in the future. We feel that the Government proposals to scrap the RSS process are a welcome move but would add that the RSS findings and Reports should also be scrapped.

There are two main lessons to be learnt from the RSS:

1.  Although the financial costs are regrettable, it should initiate the development of more appropriate and effective procedures in the future which are more likely to result in greater public involvement, understanding and acceptance.

2.  Not to automatically accept statements made by small groups of Council members as fact and then to subsequently carry these forward without reappraisal and alteration when necessary.

September 2010

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