Written evidence from North West Transport
Roundtable (ARSS 53)|
SUMMARY & RECOMMENDATIONS
We welcome the abolition of the current regional
housebuilding targets which have no upper limit but would like
to see a holistic, strategic approach to and fair distribution
of housing figures.
If incentives (financial or otherwise) are to be
given for building new houses, they should only be awarded to
those communities/ LAs which meet certain sustainability criteria
(see bullet points).
Local Enterprise Partnerships should have serving
on them a fair representation of SEEPssocial, economic
and environmental partners.
All data should be widely available to all interested
parties, not just local authorities.
Who we are, why we were established and our principal
way of influencing policy
The North West Transport Roundtable operates under
the auspices of the Campaign for Better Transport (CfBT). We are
an umbrella body that promotes sustainable transport, healthier
lives and low carbon lifestyles.
The regional roundtables were established shortly
after Regional Assemblies came into being to represent the opinions
of organisations and individuals which believe in sustainable
transport and to try to bring about more environmentally friendly
transport and planning policies at the regional and sub-regional
level. Their primary method of achieving this (and it has met
with some success) has been through engagement with the Regional
Spatial Strategy process, although NW TAR has also had a lot of
involvement with the eight individual Local Transport Plans in
the region, taken part in numerous national, regional and sub
regional consultations and served on a number of regional and
sub-regional bodies. Many of our recent outputs are viewable/downloadable
from our website: www.nwtar.org.uk.
The representation we have been afforded under
The North West Transport Roundtable (NW TAR) is a
member of North West Environment Link (NWEL) and Voluntary Sector
North West (VSNW). Through both channels, we have had a voice
via the Social, Environmental and Economic Partners (SEEPs), under
the regional working arrangements that have just been disassembled.
This has been much valued, not only by us but by elected members
and officers of regional agencies and local authorities alike.
We are well known to and well regarded by Government Office for
the North West.
Implication of the abolition of regional house
NW TAR accepts there is a need for more affordable
housing to be built but it believes that the open-ended approach
to housebuilding imposed by central government following the last
RSS process was unsustainable and, most worryingly, it paid no
heed to environmental limits - an issue of considerable concern
to the Environment Agency. The panel of inspectors who sat in
judgement at the last North West RSS examination in public considered
all the evidence placed before it and recommended quite substantial
maximum levels of housing. However, the Department for Communities
and Local Government were not satisfied that these were adequate
and, at the final stage of the process, changed the maximum figures
to minimum ones with no ceiling limit.
In our opinion, this was not a well judged approach
to adoptespecially as the North West has more brownfield
land and more empty homes than any other region - and therefore
we welcome the abolition of the present regional housebuilding
targets. That said, we can see many advantages in having well
researched and justifiable housebuilding figures set at the regional/strategic
level as these would ensure a fair distribution and an over-arching
view could be taken of environmental capacity in the region.
The likely effectiveness of the government's plan
to incentivise local communities to accept new housing development
The government's latest initiative of awarding financial
incentives to local communities for building new houses is a very
blunt tool to achieve an end. It could badly misfire and result
in a reversal of welcome trends in recent years which have seen
more emphasis on a sequential approach to land use and particularly
to more housing being delivered on brownfield land. This approach
has helped to keep 'sprawl' contained and has taken pressure off
special landscapes and Green Belt.
The key to successful, holistic housing policies
at any levelnational, regional, sub-regional or locallies
in obtaining a sound evidence base (which includes an analysis
of environmental capacity available and wider consequences such
as transport implications) and adopting sequential land use tests.
If incentives are to be given to communities/ local authorities,
these should be predicated on them delivering sustainable schemes.
We suggest that incentives are only given to those local authorities
which deliver schemes that:
Adhere to the government's five principles for achieving
Give priority to previously developed land and land
with extant transport corridors.
Adopt a sequential land use approach.
Give due consideration to environmental capacity
and the proximity principle.
Give due attention to Town and Parish Plans and Village
Design Statements where these exist.
Contribute to the government's carbon reduction targets.
Meet level three in terms of environmentally sound
The arrangements necessary to achieve co-operation
between local planning authorities
NW TAR believes that there is a need for strategic
planning because it witnessed for itself through the regional
planning processes the way that it brought into line those local
authorities which would otherwise have taken a less sustainable
We are aware it has been mooted that Local Enterprise
Partnerships (LEPs) might take on some transport and/or planning
functions. We would refer the CLG Committee to our submission
to the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee for their inquiry
into LEPs in which we emphasised the need for LEPs to have serving
on them a fair and equitable representation of SEEPSsocial,
environmental and economic partners. This formula helped to ensure
better balanced Regional Spatial Strategies than would otherwise
have been the case. Well balanced policies and decision-making
must be fundamental to the new set-up.
The need to share/update data amongst Local Authorities
researched/ collated by the Regional Leaders Boards
The data collated Regional Leaders Forums and, before
them, Regional Assemblies, was widely disseminated amongst participating
partners such as ourselves and most was also available on their
websites. Such information should not, in future, only be available
to LAs. Otherwise, how can wider stakeholders hold them to account
in the way which the "Big Society" envisages?