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Regional Planning to 2026 - What to Expect

by Edward Dawson

By the time you read this, the public consultation on the South East Plan will be a memory, and we will have a new government. I will have spoken in umpteen public meetings, and answered hundreds of questions. Is the public any wiser the following all this consultation, and did CPRE manage to get its message across?

Following the 2004 Planning Act, regional planning now has a statutory basis. CPRE has long pressed for this, and at last we have it. The problem is that the role of the counties has been diminished as a result, and the system of structure plans has gone into history. Local plans have also been abolished. Should we mourn the passing of the two tier system? While we look back fondly on structure plans, in reality they were responsible for much green field development and housing sprawl. They were the product of the 1960s, when a consensus appeared to emerge about the way we should develop, and broadly based on expansion and new technology.

We now have spatial planning, and a top down system based on a regional geography which is questionable, but probably here to stay. The South East Plan has been called a think piece, an incomplete strategy that seeks only to test various options for growth and distribution. The next stage, the submitted plan is the important one. The part two public consultation on the district level housing distribution was abandoned. As a member of the five-man team that oversaw the process I pressed hard to ensure all housing opportunities and constraints were recognised. Market appetite and housing demand had to be balanced against strategic gaps and rural designations.

The next stage of the Regional Spatial Strategy is therefore the most important. The mountains have tested and brought forth a mouse, a camel perhaps? Hampshire County Council's campaign 'Holding Out for Hampshire' has raised the profile, but they key is to buy into a regional process. The important thing is to retain the best policies of the Plan and remove the offensive material. CPRE has played a key role throughout. It has been a helpful partner at the centre of the process and a constructive critic outside it. We have extolled the virtues of the countryside and tried to contain the worst excesses of the philistines. As the Plan becomes a submission document, we will again be there to ensure sustainable development principles are fully enshrined in the policies, and the Plan becomes something we can welcome. Everyone that has worked on the Plan must be warmly thanked for their work and commitment. We will see how their efforts are rewarded. The work is not over yet!

Edward Dawson is the Regional Planning Director, CPRE South East

5 March 2005


Currently the main planning issue is the proposed Fareham Strategic Development Area which calls for a new town of up to 10,000 new homes. CPRE in its alliance with South Hampshire's Unheard Voices calls for proper consultation on this proposal.

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