August 2008

Michael Donnelly, PlanningResource, 27 August 2008

A report has warned that housebuilders are jeopardising the UK’s green agenda by cutting green technologies to cut costs.

Window supplier VELUX says the slowdown in the UK property market is posing a serious threat to the UK’s zero-carbon targets and hindering further development of eco technologies.

VELUX says that many housebuilders are being forced to cut costs and as a result, eco technologies are one of the first things go.

Kevin Brennan, head of sustainability, VELUX, said: “While cutting back on the use of eco technologies might provide a short term solution to reducing costs, it is a short sighted view and makes a mockery of the government’s zero carbon target.

“Understandably in the current climate, certain developers will be looking to cut costs, but ignoring the benefits of incorporating eco technologies could have disastrous, long-term consequences.

“If simple eco technologies such as solar thermal became integrated into all new homes, the reduction in the UK’s carbon emissions would be considerable. Further still, the unit cost to manufacture these technologies would fall, making such technologies more affordable and more accessible for all concerned.”

The Regional Spatial Strategy for the South West is currently open for consultation (in fact only the changes is to it) until 5pm, 24th October.

You can view the full documents here

The RSS is a document written by the South West Regional Government (incorporating changes from Hazel Blears) which determines the housing targets for the next 18 years. This document proposed building the NW urban extension, as well as other urban extensions, it proposes building on greenbelt land. We need as many people as possible to comment on the RSS and make your views heard. However, the RSS is a large document, 304 pages for the version with tracked changes.

In theory you can only comment on the changes. This can be done by filling in the rss-comments-form and sending it off to the address below.

An easier solution is to write stating the issues in the RSS you feel strongly about, we have provided a rss-comments-public-letter-template template letter which we urge you to adjust, expand on and send to:

Regional Spatial Strategy Team
Government Office for the South West
2 Rivergate, Temple Quay



Some extracts from the RSS

Our main issue is that we believe the housing targets are too high, and that this scale of development is not needed.

District housing totals (within administrative boundaries) RSS
Cheltenham 8,100
Gloucester 11,500
Tewkesbury 14,600
Cotswold 9,100
Forest of Dean 6,900
Stroud 6,200

For Cheltenham, this is broken down as follows: 6,500 within the built up urban area, 5,000 within an urban extension at north west Cheltenham, 1,300 within an urban extension at south Cheltenham and 1,000 north of Bishops Cleeve.

Secondly we object to where the housing are proposed to be built.

Here is a map showing where development is proposed around Cheltenham. The RSS contains, I believe, some very dishonest use of language relating to the Cheltenham and Gloucester Greenbelt. I quote:

“The General Extent of the Cheltenham and Gloucester Greenbelt will be maintained subject to the following alterations

  • removal of the greenbelt to accomodate urban extensions at Areas of Search 3C, 3D, 3E, 3F and 3G”
  • Note that only a single area of search (development) in and around the Cheltenham area (that within Cheltenham itself) does NOT require removal of the Greenbelt.

    Map of Development Proposed for Cheltenham


    I quote from page 84 of the RSS.

    “4.1.33. The north west of Cheltenham provides considerable potential to extend the town in an area not subject to flood risk and other environmental constraints”

    If you live in this area you may know that the River Swillgate, River Chelt and Hyde Brook all flooded in July 2007 across the area of proposed development.

    Protection of Wildlife and the Environment

    Heres what the RSS says about this, I quote from page 88,

    “Cheltenham will improve its economic performance and realise its economic potential, while safeguarding the integrity of environmental and habitat designations”

    but this seems not to preclude building over large areas of green fields, spoiling the environment and habitat for deer, badgers, foxes, barn owls, bats and birds of prey.


    The word “sustainability” is thoughout the RSS, the definition given in the RSS is this “The simple idea of ensuring a better quality of life for everyone, now and for generations to come. A widely used international definition is development which meets the needs of the present, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. Here an extract which demonstrates that further development is not sustainable, and that we are far from being sustainable at present, page 22

    “There is a tension which the RSS must help resolve between further population and economic growth and the imperative to reduce resource consumption and, most importantly, the decoupling of growth and CO2 emissions. Consumption of natural resources or ‘ecological footprint’ has a global impact. Growing demands for built development, infrastructure, food, fresh water, natural materials and energy, seriously risk the erosion of environmental quality and the life systems on which we all depend. The South West’s ecological footprint is unsustainable as it stands. If everyone on the planet consumed such a quantity of natural resources and energy as an average South West resident, three planets would be needed to support life on Earth. Consequently, a shift is needed towards ‘one planet’, lower consumption, with lifestyles which are more resource efficient. This should include a move towards use of locally produced, replaceable natural resources, more efficient usage of energy, better waste re-use/recycling, and more efficient use of scarce natural resources such as minerals. “

    I’m not sure how the RSS helps to resolve this conflict at all as it proposes economic growth as usual. In fact, at 3.2% per annum which is quote ambitious, considering that the economy showed no grown at all for the last quarter up to August 2008. However, to be fair some mention is made of using renewable energy, and by 2016 all new homes will be required to be carbon neutral, as least in their day-to-day running, not in their construction.


    Food production is strongly related to sustainability. It is mentioned a few times. Here, on page 200

    “7.3.17 Best and Most Versatile (BMV) land needs to be taken into account alongside other sustainability considerations when deciding between sites. The BMV agricultural soils need
    to be protected from development because these are the most flexible in terms of the range of crops or produce that can be grown, and therefore the most valuable for current and future
    agricultural production. Given changes to Common Agricultural Policies (CAP) and the fact that this is driving businesses to become more economically efficient, it is important that the
    best land is protected, for possible future agricultural needs. In some circumstances, BMV land may be subject to development pressures, particularly in areas identified for growth in
    Sections 3 and 4.”

    I can’t really comment on whether the land around Cheltenham is classified as “Best and Most Versatile” land, but crops are grown on it. I do know that the Swindon Village allotment site which was proposed to build on-top off in the original planning documents grows a huge quantity of produce, so there doesn’t seem to be much wrong with this land to me. The RSS states that less land will be used for food production, is this sensible, or likely given the current food price crisis, heres what it says on page 201

    “7.3.16 In future, as changes to agricultural policy and industry take shape, less land is likely to be used primarily for food production. More is likely to be used for crops for industry
    and energy, or managed mainly for conservation, recreation or community benefits. In this period of transition the Draft RSS seeks to guide change towards the most sustainable land management options which will support the rural economy and wider objectives. “

    Thats about all I can help you with now. The important thing is to make you views heard and object the large amount of unsustainable and damaging development proposed in the RSS.

    Thank you.

    The local greenbelt between Swindon, Uckington, Elmstone Hardwicke and as far as Brockhampton could be desecrated and lost forever.

    It will be replaced with a huge building site for the next 20 years, eventually merging the villages until the space is filled with 5000 dwellings and businesses – as well as creating a myriad of other issues you get with about 12,000 extra residents and extra businesses (and their cars)!

    If you think this is wrong then you must let people know.
    Please come and join everyone else at the public meeting organised by our Parish Council.

    Swindon Village School
    Wednesday 27th August

    Tracey Crews (Strategic Land Use Manager) and Toby Clempson (Planning Policy Manager) will give a presentation of the proposals in the RSS and explain our best options for making objections to it.

    There will be plenty of local people there to whom you can ask questions you may have and who can give guidance on what actions to take.

    We have just a few weeks of public consultation before final decisions will be made!

    We look forward to seeing you there

    Motion passed rejected the housing targets

    1. This Council notes that the Government, through the Regional Spatial Strategy, will impose a target to build at least 13,800 houses over the next 18 years within Cheltenham and the adjacent countryside and notes that a new 12-week consultation period has started on the amendments to the housing figures contained in the Examination in Public version of the Regional Spatial Strategy which is expected to end on 17th October 2008.

    2. This Council notes that grass-roots opposition from residents, local Councillors and members of Parliament to this imposed house-building in the Cheltenham area is rising. In particular, this Council notes the successful campaigning of ‘Save the Countryside’, and urges all Party’s to have a united front against the RSS.

    3. This Council therefore pledges continued opposition to the housing targets imposed by the RSS and resolves:
    * to work with Community Groups and Parish Councils to register the widest possible opposition to the plans
    * to oppose the RSS housing targets in the strongest possible terms in its consultation submission on the RSS.

    Motion on holding a referendum rejected

    The following motion on a referendum on the housing targets:

    4. This Council therefore pledges to hold a town-wide referendum as soon as possible, using a question agreed by Group Leaders, to consult the people of Cheltenham on whether they accept the Secretary of State’s recommendations for imposed house-building targets. The results of the referendum will be included in the Council’s response to the Secretary of State’s review of the Regional Spatial Strategy.

    was rejected, primarily for the following reasons:

    • The target would be Cheltenham Borough Council rather than the Government (but CBC is behind us)
    • There are better ways for spend the estimated £50K cost (funded by taxpayers)
    • It may be risky (it would result in huge propaganda material from the developers, “Save The Countryside” would probably not be able to match this due to lack of resources)

    “Save The Countryside” did have some input on this and we broadly agreed that it was best to not hold a referendum at this time.

    Note that Tewkesbury Borough Council are having a referendum on the housing targets. I believe partly because TBC is going along with the governments targets rather than rejecting them and for them flooding is of course a particular and major issue.

    See the full story here from The Gloucestershire Echo.

    This Thursday, Paul Massey, a Councillor for Swindon Village, will give a briefing on the SW Regional Spatial Strategy and what its impact on the Cheltenham area will be. This concerns our campaign particularly since the strategy contains prescriptive housing targets which have led to the proposal for the urban extension. The briefing is aimed at informing campaigners and activists within the area. Please attend if you wish to help the cause of “Save The Countryside” and spread the word.

    Thursday 7th August
    Council Chamber at the Municipal Offices