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
Bristol
BS1 6EH

or

email: rssconsult@gosw.gsi.gov.uk

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

    Flooding

    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.

    Sustainability

    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

    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.

    Advertisements