Woburn Sands & District Society | 08 January 2008

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01/04/2008 - East of England Spatial Strategy News - Habitats Assessment and further Government changes

BACKGROUND:

Around 1997, the then Deputy Prime Minister, set up four un-elected Regional Assemblies to deliver a step change in house building in the South East. The East of England Regional Assembly (EERA) was one of these, covering the areas of Cambridgeshire, Essex, Norfolk, Bedfordshire and Suffolk. Each spatial strategy produced by the four RA’s follow different timescales. A draft East of England Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS) was produced for consultation in 2005 and can be found at http://www.eera.gov.uk/category.asp?cat=452 .
WSDS, which covers villages that fall within both the East of England RSS and South East England RSS, provided comment in respect of the consultation. (see Representations and Document Library). An Examination in Public then followed in November 05 to March 06. Following which the Panel Report was published in June 2006. This can be found at http://www.gos.gov.uk/goee/docs/193657/193668/East_of_England_Plan_Examin2.pdf

Following this there followed in December 06, publication of the Government Office of the East of England’s proposed changes to the to Draft East of England RSS, were published for consultation. The plan was to publish the East of England RSS in early summer 2007.

Whilst WSDS covers only a very small part of the area of Mid Bedfordshire, and that is not included in the East of England RSS, having been hijacked by the South East England RSS, more particularly the Milton Keynes and South Midland Sub-Regional Strategy, none the less the Society is of the view that:
A)Government’s imposition of housing numbers across the south-east irrespective of local and specialist views, is inappropriate at best and takes little account of climate change.
B)That the consequence of such imposition, in terms of environment, traffic, pollution, and flooding is potentially catastrophic
C)That the lack of co-ordinated planning across the four RSS is potentially disastrous in terms of environment, traffic, pollution, and flooding.
D)That whilst there is a need for affordable housing, the Government’s plan to deliver this through all development attaining a target 30% affordable housing, is, as the evidence from Government itself, unattainable. Only 18% has been delivered to date

The Habitats Directive Assessment (HDA) as required by European Law, for the East of England Plan was only prepared in December 2006, after both the Draft Plan, and the Examination in Public, which set the numbers of dwellings to be built in each area, had taken place. The Government faced serious challenge from major environmental organisations, as it was considered that the HDA was not compliant with the European Habitats Directive, made UK Law. The challenge included the threat of judicial review and the HDA was withdrawn in Spring 2007. In October 2007 a further Report of the Habitats Directive Assessment (under the Habitats Regulations) by Messrs RPS was published, followed shortly by the Government’s further proposed changes – in which the Government Office of the East of England, stated that the further report had concluded that the East of England RSS plus proposed mitigation changes did not “give rise to any adverse effects on the integrity of sites of European or International importance for nature conservation” . This was not correct.

The further Report of the Habitats Directive Assessment identified areas where there were adverse effects on the integrity of sites from the impacts of air and water quality, water resources, flooding and recreation including areas where a combination of SE RSS and EE RSS could threaten sites such as the Ouse Washes amongst others, and indeed pointed out the potential for increased flood risk in the area. The Government Office of the East of England’s further proposed changes were to make these adverse effects a matter for the local plans to address. WSDS pointed this out to the Government Office of the East of England – see Representation and Document Library.

The Government Office of the East of England is once again facing challenge in respect the impact of the East of England Regional Spatial Strategy, and delayed publication once again.

WHERE WE ARE NOW

The East of England Plan has now been published, along with a Supporting Document in respect of the Consultation following the Habitats Re-assessment and Governments furthe comments.


News Keywords: East of England Regional Spatial Strategy

Areas Covered include: Woburn Sands, Aspley Guise, Aspley Heath, the Brickhills, Husborne Crawley, Salford, Wavendon and Woburn
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