Regional Spatial Strategy Proposed Changes

October 24, 2008 10:00 AM

Alistair Cameron has written to the Regional Spatial Strategy Team, Government Office for the South West about the proposed changes. Here you can read his letter in full:-

Dear Sir / Madam,

Regional Spatial Strategy Proposed Changes

I wish to object to the Regional Spatial Strategy in relation to Gloucestershire for the following reasons:-

1. The increase in housing numbers of 56,400 by 2026 is not justified and is far too excessive

The increase is based on an economic growth assumption of 2.8 - 3.2% over the 20 year period of the plan. This is not realistic in view of the current downturn in the economy. It also assumes a large influx of people into the area. I see no evidence that there will be such a massive influx.

At present a number of builders in Gloucestershire are slowing down their house building due to a reduction in demand for private housing.

The need for more affordable and social housing should be met through the direct provision of affordable houses based on identified local need.

2. There is a risk of developing green field sites before brown land

Good planning policy is based on developing sites which have already been built on (brown land) before moving into green fields through urban extensions and urban sprawl. This is necessary to support the regeneration of Cheltenham and Gloucester as well as to safeguard green fields. However, many developers would prefer to build on green fields rather than brown land because this is cheaper. With such a large housing target, developers will try to justify building on green fields as soon as possible without having to develop brown land first. The RSS should contain a sequential test requiring the development of brown land first of all.

3. Failure to take account of flood risks

The RSS takes no account of the Summer 2007 floods in Gloucestershire which resulted in the loss of water supply, the near loss of electricity supply and significant numbers of people being forced out of their homes for many months and in some cases over a year. Many areas in Gloucestershire were badly flooded including Tewkesbury, Longford, Longlevens, Bishops Cleeve, Northway, Swindon Village, Deerhurst, Uckington, Brockworth, Innsworth, Prestbury, Winchcombe and Woodmancote. Gloucestershire will always be vulnerable to flooding in view of the Rivers Severn and Avon and the many tributary rivers and streams which run through it. As much of the county is composed of heavy clay there is a regular risk of surface water flooding (pluvial flooding). There are many areas where it would be too risky to build more houses. The provision of Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SUDS) would not alleviate these risks, particularly for areas of heavy clay.

Following last Summer's floods and the Pitt Report which highlighted the dangers of surface water flooding there is an urgent need to review and extend the location of the flood plain which cannot be built on. The current flood plain as drawn up by the Environment Agency fails to take account of last year's floods and the ever increasing risk of surface water flooding (pluvial flooding) caused by climate change.

4. Loss of Countryside

Our countryside is important as a source of locally produced food (which is therefore environmentally sustainable) and as a recreation area for the whole county. The RSS threatens to remove a large area of countryside which will seriously diminish the quality of life of many residents in Gloucestershire, will reduce the tourist potential of the area and will reduce our ability to produce local food.

5. Loss of Green Belt

The Green Belt was drawn up to prevent the coalescence of Cheltenham and Gloucester and Cheltenham and Bishops Cleeve and to prevent urban sprawl. The RSS as proposed will seriously damage the Green Belt and lead to urban sprawl.

6. Landfill Site and Hazardous Waste Site at Wingmoor Farm

There is a risk that some of the proposed houses would be sited near to the landfill site and the hazardous waste site at Wingmoor Farm. This could breach the European Planning and Environment Directives which indicate that no residential development should take place within 0.5 km of a landfill site and 2km of a hazardous waste site.

For the above reasons the Regional Spatial Strategy should be abandoned and a more realistic strategy developed through local consultation based on identified local housing need and a realistic, sustainable plan for economic growth.

Yours sincerely

Alistair Cameron

Liberal Democrat Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Tewkesbury