Council criticises the government over RSS pressure

Posted on Tuesday 15th September 2009 at 10:50 pm by SH (Editor)

South Gloucestershire Council’s planning chief has criticised the government for claiming that its controversial planning blueprint should be implemented, despite the document being in ‘legal limbo’.

The Council has been told by the Government that:

“The RSS [Regional Spatial Strategy] has reached such an advanced stage that we [the Government] would expect it now to be given considerable weight in consideration of any application for development.”

This is despite the fact that the RSS is yet to be finalised by Ministers because of a legal challenge.

The Government’s advice is thought to be encouraging speculative planning applications, including a recently submitted proposal to build 450 new houses on Green Belt land at Oldland Common.

Instead the Government is facing demands to go back to the drawing board on its RSS plans for 33,000 new houses in the district and a series of new ‘urban extensions’ on Green Belt land.

Cllr Brian Allinson, Conservative Cabinet Member for Planning, Transportation and Strategic Environment on South Gloucestershire Council said:

“The RSS is in legal limbo and so I am astonished that the Government is openly saying that it has ‘considerable weight’ because this is giving the green light to a frenzy of unsustainable planning applications on our district’s Green Belt.

We will be taking legal advice on this; because I certainly disagree that considerable weight should be given to the RSS, particularly given the outstanding legal challenges and complete disregard of important environmental considerations.

The Council maintains that a lower number of new homes would be more appropriate to meet local need.”

Cllr Allinson has also dismissed claims by the Labour MP for Kingswood, Roger Berry, that identifying where 21,500 homes should go would help Green Belt campaigners’ fight. He said:

“The Labour MP for Kingswood fails to understand that we are way past the 21,500 figure now because developers are working on his Government’s revised plans for 33,000 homes and damaging Green Belt urban extensions in South Gloucestershire.

It is the continuing existence of the draft Regional Spatial Strategy that convinces some developers that they can push through major development on the Green Belt.

With the Government now saying that its legally-flawed RSS has considerable weight, the Labour MP for Kingswood urgently needs to drop his smoke and mirrors exercise and instead join with the Council in pressing the Government to scrap its damaging Regional Spatial Strategy.”

Cllr Valerie Lee, whose Siston ward contains the Green Belt around Siston and Warmley, added:

“The best chance that we have of preserving our Green Belt is for the Government to scrap its damaging Regional Spatial Strategy immediately and I hope the district’s MPs will stop playing games and instead join the campaigning efforts of local people.”

Source: Conservative Group on South Gloucestershire Council

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