November 2008

Cut an activist dash in one of out T-Shirts!

Cut an activist dash in one of out T-Shirts!

There is going to be plenty of opportunity in the New Year to stand up and be counted as an opponent of greenbelt development and Urban Sprawl. Our committee have been cutting quite a dash in their ‘Save the Countryside’ T-shirts. Now we are putting in an order for a whole lot more. If you would like one, please leave a comment (with your email in the hidden email field) on the site stating size (XL, L, or M) and we’ll get you one.

Save the Countryside is a non-political organisation, we just want to stop the urban sprawl that will result if the RSS gets the rubber stamp. To do this we need to persuade politicians of all colours to see the strength of our arguments. Well it looks as if campaigning groups like ours have hit a chord with the Conservatives, as can be seen from this excerpt from a statement from Eric Pickles, Shadow Minister for Communities and Local Government:

Conservatives have pledged to scrap regional planning and the unelected regional assemblies.

“A Conservative Government will abolish the undemocratic and unwieldy tier of regional planning across England. This will include changing the law to scrap the Regional Spatial Strategies and Regional Planning Bodies (currently the regional assemblies, soon to be RDAs). We will return their powers to elected local councils.
As a logical consequence of scrapping the regional plans, if the RSSs have already been implemented, we will allow councils to revise their local plans (‘Local Development Frameworks’) to undo the changes that the Regional Spatial Strategy forced on them. This will allow local communities to protect their local environment, and decide themselves the most appropriate level of development for their area.”

Fine words – its a forlorn hope that Labout will U-turn on this policy to nullify this vote-catcher, but hopefully it will make them consider the detail more carefully. For example, Margeret Beckett in the Commons this week was put on the spot about the principle of consecutive development which was cut from the final draft of the South West RSS – she responded:

(On the issue of brownfield development..) “this is one of the many targets that others said we could not possibly meet but we have met; in fact, we have exceeded the targets on building on brownfield. I understand his concerns, and I feel sure that all Members will agree with him that we should do this, rather than, as the hon. Member for Esher and Walton (Mr. Taylor) mentioned, go for greenfield development. (Hansard: 18 Nov 2008 : Column 113)”

We just need to keep the pressure up.

This may seem like a rash and brash statement to make but it comes in the light of a written answer to a question submitted in the Commons last week.

Question: What assumptions about annual economic growth rate were made in compiling the housing numbers for South West in the RSS?

Answer: 3.2%

We say: Not flipping likely! These levels of growth are just not going to happen, unless  we go back to piling up huge amounts of unsustainable debt, and starting from where we are now, that just isn’t going to happen. if that figure is then agreed to be wildly overstated, then it follows that population and therefore housing predictions are also wildly overstated. Result? The housing component of the RSS is a busted flush and it has to be back to the drawing board.

Chair Helen Wells catches the photographers eye at Downing Street

Representatives of the Save The Countryside Campaign went to Westminster last week to hand in our petitions, both electronic (well, evidence of) and paper.

We met with the press and a shadow politician first of all outside the houses of Parliament; we handed in a total of 4208 petition signatures from Save the countryside to Hazel Blears’ team at the communities and local government office,  and we handed in our letter at the gates of Downing Street.


It was good to get the attention of the press and the politicians, and we have had excellent news since confirming that the 4000 plus signatures on our petition will count as objecting comments against the RSS.

About to be interviewed by the press at Westminster

About to be interviewed by the press at Westminster