Local Conservative councillors and Green Belt campaigners have criticised confirmation that a future Labour Government would reintroduce regional housing targets.
The Regional Spatial Strategies (RSS) were a spectacular bureaucratic failure representing an affront to local democracy yet also proving ineffective in getting houses built – house building fell to the lowest level since 1924.
The South West RSS proposed 32,800 more houses for South Gloucestershire, including concreting over the Kingswood Green Belt and deleting entire communities like Shortwood, Siston and Warmley.
But the respected Planning magazine reports that Labour would reintroduce regional housing targets.
At a Royal Institute of British Architects fringe meeting at the Labour Conference the Shadow Planning Minister Jack Dromey MP said the Government’s decision to scrap the targets was “crazy”.
Mr Dromey said:
“You cannot sensibly address meeting our housing needs, infrastructure, transport and protecting our natural environment other than if you have a regional and sub-regional approach.”
“So there is no contradiction between a localist agenda that does believe in maximising local say through neighbourhood plans with saying that you’ve got to have that strategic approach, including the kind of imperatives that were inherent in the regional spatial strategy framework.”
Asked if this would include regional house building targets, Mr Dromey replied “yes”.
Conservative councillor Ian Adams, who represents Siston and Warmley ward on South Gloucestershire Council, said:
“It’s hugely disappointing that Labour has failed to learn from the mistakes of its failed approach to housing.”
“Labour’s Regional Spatial Strategy would have meant pouring thousands of tonnes of concrete on the beautiful Kingswood Green Belt and swallowing up entire communities like Siston and Warmley.”
“The RSS is thankfully being scrapped by the Coalition Government with powers being returned locally.”
“Labour’s top-down and unsustainable regional housing targets should never be allowed to make a comeback.”
Since coming to power, the Coalition Government has begun the process of scrapping RSS frameworks through the Localism Bill, which is continuing to make its way through Parliament.
South Gloucestershire Council’s Core Strategy stresses the importance of protecting the Green Belt east of Kingswood.
Source: Conservative Group on South Gloucestershire Council