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Key points from the Strategic Environmental Assessment of Regional Spatial Strategy 14

CPRE East of England has produced this briefing in an attempt to point out some of the issues associated with the banked  RSS14, Assembly members were not aware of all the issues when the RSS14 was banked as it was not then subject to an SEA. Given the Sustainable Communities Plan proposals were also not subjected to an SEA, concern must be voiced that the proposals may not be sustainable given current environmental considerations and will need to be revisited. Also of concern is the underlying dichotomy of purpose as pointed out in the Report. (See below).

 Options discussed in the Report of the Strategic Environmental Assessment 

  • Business as usual (continuing trends of RPG6 and 9)
  • Banked RSS14
  • Lord Rooker’s higher levels.

Of major significance is the statement on page 59 

“Baseline assessment shows that a number of aspects of the environment are already seriously stressed by human impacts. Further development on any significant scale is likely to have serious negative impacts on water resources, biodiversity, tranquility, air quality, recreational access and congestion. The larger the volume of development the harder it will be to avoid increased flood risk, erosion of quality and distinctiveness of settlements and the built environment and landscape. as a broad generalization the “banked” RSS14 is significantly worse for the environment than the business as usual option, and the “Rooker” level of development is worse still” 

The SEA report also points out the ambiguity of purpose – “enable housing to catch up with jobs to address problems of shortage, affordability and commuting  or to develop balanced communities with jobs and housing broadly in balance”. (p59) 

The report goes on to point out that  the same housing cannot do both and if RSS14 achieves balanced communities it will not redress existing  housing shortages and therefore government could seek yet more growth  “a policy vicious circle”. (p59) 

The issues which appear across the majority of the Region are: 

Unsustainable water abstraction regimes

Threatened landscape character

Sensitive wildlife habitats

Threatened high quality historic built environment

Key quotes from the report.

“Most of the region’ groundwater resources are broadly in balance, but no further resources are available and in some areas surface and groundwater abstraction already exceeds sustainable limits” Table 3.3. (our emphasis in bold) 

“Summer surface water is fully committed to meeting existing demand with no significant further resources available” (Table 3.3 p29 and See figure 3a and 3b) 

“At the broad regional level, the baseline study shows clearly that availability of fresh water resources are already a constraint on development. Climate Change is likely to result in demand increasing, but supply decreasing. Without extra housing growth the Region is therefore likely to face a water supply deficit within a few decade” (p 38) 

“200,000 homes are predicted to be at risk from river flood hazards by 2016” (table 3.3,p29) 

“Figure 6 shows that there has been a strong reduction in tranquility in the region since 1960s” (table3.3 p32)  This is likely to be far worse with airport expansion and further development of communities and roads. (our comments in italics) 

Increasing vehicle use will exacerbate air quality problems – several areas have worse than average (Urban 51 Rural 68 in 2003) days of moderate or poor quality” (Table 3.3 p32))

“Rail infrastructure is already under stress and bus service availability is relatively poor. Public transport infrastructure is likely to be a significant constraint on new development in the region” (Table3.3, p33) 

“Two thirds of rail journeys originating in the East of England ended in London”. (Table 3.3 p34).  

“The rural population increase puts (increased by 18% between 1981 and 2001) pressure on existing biodiversity, transport infrastructure and rural services, all of which are already having problems. Increasing the population of the region could exacerbate this problem unless adequate provision is put in place to maximize the benefits of more people (e.g. critical mass for public transport)”  (Table 3.3,p37)  Given associated disadvantages it will not be a net benefit to the environment.  

“Increasing traffic will damage the environment directly by increasing fuel use, greenhouse emissions, pollution and noise. Extra roads will consume land and damage landscape and biodiversity” (p78)

“Any economic development advantages of increased road capacity area will be negated by induced traffic” (p78)