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

Written evidence from E.ON (ARSS 49)


1.    The regional spatial strategies performed a valuable role in helping to realise national energy and climate change targets at a regional level. The strategies helped ensure that renewable and low carbon energy were a key part of development plans at a more local level. The UK has very challenging targets in the energy sector and we are concerned that, without some form of regional coordination, these targets will be more difficult or more costly to deliver.

2.    We fully supported the concept of regional targets to drive national objectives and as such we would like an alternative structure to be put in place that delivers this need. The National Planning Framework should replace the role of regional spatial strategies, providing clear guidance on the importance of renewable and low carbon energy deployment. We believe that local authorities would benefit from an approach which takes a holistic view and provides consistency and cross border integration, ensuring borders are not a barrier to meeting large scale development needs.

3.    We would also like a framework that encourages local authorities to facilitate delivery of broader targets. We support the use of incentive schemes, such as that proposed by the government which allows the community to retain the business rates associated with a new development for a certain number of years, provided such incentives do not limit the economic viability of the project. Any incentive structure should ensure funds are directed towards those most affected within the community.

4.    It is essential that local people should be able to have a say, though consultation and community engagement, at a local level on how to achieve national policy and that it is important that development decisions aim to deliver a positive outcome for communities. Plans should be in place to address how the area will contribute to the transition to a low carbon economy. A robust evidence base should be used to inform how each plan will support the delivery of national policy. This could fall within the remit of the National Planning Framework.


Q.  What are the implications of the abolition of regional house building targets for levels of housing development?

5.    The recession together with constraints on lending by banks has had a much more significant impact on the reduction in levels of housing development, than the abolition of regional house building targets. However, regional targets supported the drive to a low carbon economy as it provided house builders and companies in the business of delivering utility infrastructure and services with a degree of certainty around what would need to be built, where and when. In addition, regional spatial strategies provided the platform on which joined up utility infrastructure solutions could be developed. It allowed energy companies to partner with developers (such as house builders) and the community to deliver sustainable energy infrastructure that may serve multiple urban developments, in turn making use of sustainable local sources of energy such as wind, biomass and municipal waste. We are now concerned that what has been lost through the abolition of regional house building targets is the ability for infrastructure suppliers to plan for and deploy joined up "sustainable"infrastructure.

6.    We believe that, through new development, new opportunities are created to rejuvenate the existing infrastructure that serves the community around a particular development. For example, meeting the low carbon energy requirements of a large development of around 3,000 Code level three homes could be most cost efficiently met through a district heating scheme built over a number of phases. The deployment of this new energy infrastructure could potentially be extended to meet the energy needs of the adjacent built environment across a local boundary. Therefore, the delivery of new homes, coupled with holistic energy planning could lead to the lowering of the overall community's carbon footprint. In the absence of regional spatial planning another approach that allows for a holistic approach to be undertaken is crucial. The abolition of housing targets has removed the certainty that investors had and could result in missed opportunities.

Q.  What is 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?

7.    It is important that communities are able to have a say in development proposals and local people are fully consulted upon for major new housing developments. However local planning authorities must assess developments not just in terms of local impact but also national need in reaching their final decision.

Q.  Should arrangements 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)

8.    Yes. We believe that there should be a duty on local planning authorities to co-operate with neighbouring authorities to identify optimum locations for developments that meet national policy objectives. The National Planning Framework could facilitate this.

9.    We are also concerned that the abolition of regional spatial strategies has also meant that significant work conducted previously by RDAs in establishing regional requirements for sustainable development may not take place; this needs to be addressed as part of the National Planning Framework.

10.  In order to ensure that local authorities are able to make a contribution to the UK's energy and climate change related goals it is important that sustainable energy solutions are encouraged at the right scale. Therefore, where sustainable energy infrastructure can be deployed at a scale which supports the needs of multiple urban developments the planning framework should incentivise this outcome in the interests of all stakeholders.

September 2010

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