Shadow Cabinet Minister backs call to scrap RSS

The ConservativesCalls by South Gloucestershire’s Conservative councillors to scrap the region’s controversial planning blueprint have won the backing of a senior Conservative MP.

Grant Shapps MP, the Shadow Minister for Housing, promised the district that a future Conservative government would scrap Labour’s Regional Spatial Strategy, as he visited the area this week to meet local Green Belt campaigners.

His pledge comes as a Sustainable Communities Act proposal from South Gloucestershire Council’s Conservative administration is being considered that calls for the Regional Spatial Strategy, along with regional and housing powers, to be abolished.

Efforts to scrap the RSS are being made in an effort to discourage speculative planning applications.

An application to build 450 new houses on Green Belt land in Oldland Common was rejected last month; however developers in Chipping Sodbury have recently revealed proposals for 1,000 new houses east of St John’s Way.

Both of these areas have been identified for huge new urban extensions under plans contained in the Regional Spatial Strategy in order to accommodate nearly 33,000 new houses in South Gloucestershire.

Developers also appear to have been encouraged by Government claims that the RSS has ‘considerable weight’, despite Ministers announcing recently that more work needed to be done on a ‘sustainability appraisal’ after a successful legal challenge in the East of England region.

Speaking whilst he was in South Gloucestershire, Mr Shapps said:

“The embarrassing delay to the South West Regional Spatial Strategy reveals the extent of the failure of the Government’s target-driven regional planning policy.

This discredited document is actually preventing communities from getting on and building the homes the area needs.

I back South Gloucestershire Council’s calls for the Government to scrap the RSS now. If the Government does not then I want to assure South Gloucestershire residents that a future Conservative Government will do so and allow local people to decide where new homes should go.”

He added:

“We will use cash incentives to encourage new homes to be built in a way that protects the environment and provides the infrastructure to support local communities, rather than letting unelected quangos impose unsustainable development on communities.

A future Conservative Government will match pound-for-pound the Council Tax revenue received on all new homes for a period of six years and, in order to help fix Labour’s affordable housing crisis, we will guarantee 125 pence for every pound received in Council Tax from new social homes in addition to the money already collected.”

Local campaigner and Conservative councillor Matthew Riddle, who helped launch the district-wide No Way To 33K housing campaign, has welcomed the high-profile backing, saying:

“It is the continuing existence of the RSS that convinces some developers that they can push through unsustainable and damaging planning applications like the sort that we are seeing in Chipping Sodbury, as well as elsewhere.

No green field is safe under the Government’s plans and I am delighted that Mr Shapps is backing our calls for the RSS to be scrapped and for housing and planning powers to be returned to local communities, which is where they belong.

I hope that the other parties on the council will also support this because it will send an important message to Government Ministers that we are united against their harmful plans.”

Conservative councillors are presenting a motion to the next Full Council meeting on 25 November calling on all parties on the council to agree to abolish the RSS.

Source: Conservative Group on South Gloucestershire Council