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FINAL REGIONAL PLANNING GUIDANCE FOR THE SOUTH WEST

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A revised and strengthened planning agenda for the South West has been published. It follows extensive public consu...
A revised and strengthened planning agenda for the South West has been published. It follows extensive public consultation on the draft changes proposed by the government last December.

The revised Regional Planning Guidance aims to deliver:

* Sufficient new housing to meet needs - lower figures than previously projected: from 20,350 to 20,200 per year

* Increase in brownfield target to 50 per cent from 44 per cent proposed by the independent panel

* No greater use of greenfield sites in line with the regional assembly's recommendations

* Recognition of the roles market towns and villages play

Flood-resistant development; taking into account new government guidance on blooding on floodplains

Planning minister Lord Falconer said:

'Regional Planning Guidance for the South West (SWRPG) provides the positive and sustainable long term vision to support economic growth and regeneration, while protecting and enhancing the region's environment. It sets out a spatial strategy that recognises the existing vitality of towns and ensures that where urban extensions are needed these should be developed in a sustainable manner and avoid sprawl. It also recognises and addresses the role of market towns and villages in meeting the needs of their local areas and in promoting the revitalisation of the countryside.

'I am pleased to openly acknowledge that much of the format and content of the SWRPG, including the vision, aims and objectives, carries forward what was proposed in the initial draft SW RPG prepared by the local authorities in the region through the regional assembly. The government believes that the RPG process in the SW reflects the effective working relationships between the local authorities and other regional stakeholders and partners. It clearly demonstrates the benefits of the new inclusive nature in preparing such guidance. I am also pleased that many of the comments received on the consultation document were constructive suggestions to help take forward this strategic objectives and I hope that the final modifications have taken as many of these on board as possible'.

The SWRPG endorses the regional assembly's view that most development should be concentrated in the cities and larger towns. It sets out a sequential approach to identifying sustainable opportunities for development, looking first at the capacity and reuse of previously developed land within urban areas, then possible urban extensions. This is consistent with existing policies for urban renaissance and the better use of land. To aid that objective, the SWRPG policies help local authorities to identify the extent and potential of such settlements. The potential of these areas will now be the subject of further work by the regional assembly involving the local authorities concerned and other interested parties.

The document takes forward the government's objective that everyone should have the opportunity for a decent home. It proposes an annual provision of 20,200 newdwellings per annum compared to the 18,350 originally suggested by the local authorities. This is well in line with existing levels of provision and reflects the findings of the independent panel as to what was a more realistic assessment of the region's housing needs. SWRPG sets a target that 50 per cent of these new dwellings are to be on previously used land and buildings, compared with the 44 per cent proposed by that panel. This takes account of the likely availability of such land in a largely rural region, but also of objectives to make more efficient use of land, particularly within urban areas. This higher target figure means that the slight increase in overall housing provision will not lead to any additional demand for greenfield sites.

Final SWRPG continues to include policies for a review of the green belt around the main urban areas as an essential part of the process of finding sustainable locations for development. These policies, proposed from the outset by the local authorities and endorsed by the independent panel, are designed to help achieve an urban renaissance and the improved economic and social viability of the rural areas, whilst protecting and enhancing the countryside.

The SWRPG recognises that more work needs to be done on further development of the Regional Transport Strategy to facilitate the economic performance of the region, achieve more sustainable patterns of movement and to combat congestion. The conclusions of the South West Area Multi-Modal Study are vital to this process.

Lord Falconer continued:

'I am also pleased that the final SWRPG now incorporates the government's recent policies and guidance to address flood prevention, waste management and renewable energy issues. These will help to ensure that new plans and proposals coming forward in the future will help to secure a safer and cleaner environment.'

The document is being distributed to local authorities, the South West Regional Assembly (as the regional planning body), the South West Regional Development Agency and others who participated at the Public Examination held in 2000. Copies have also been placed in the libraries of parliament and made available to MPs from the region. Further copies can be obtained from the Stationery Office. It is also available on the website.

Notes

1. The secretary of state for transport, local government and the regions, has completed his careful consideration of all representations made on his Proposed Changes to Draft Regional Planning Guidance for the South West (RPG10), which was issued in December 2000 for a 12 week public consultation period.

2. The public consultation exercise gave rise to 2175 responses from 601 respondents (including public bodies and agencies, commercial organisations, action groups and individuals) covering a wide range of issues. Whilst many of the responses were supportive, a significant number made specific suggestions, both supportive and critical, as to how the document could be amended to improve its effectiveness. Many of the changes to the text and policies are the result of these consultation responses. An independent sustainability appraisal by consultants found no substantive problems arising from the proposed changes. In the main the RPG strategy was well supported and many comments were relatively minor ones about format or seeking clarification.

3. There were also responses from businesses, developers, surveyors and planning consultants, environmental agencies and pressure groups. The rest were from transport interests, amenity groups and residents associations, along with national and regional bodies representing public, private or voluntary interests, MPs, chambers of commerce, economic partnerships and academics.

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