The Government has confirmed that it is delaying its final decision on how many new homes must be built in the B&NES area until the end of June. The Government’s highly controversial ‘Regional Spatial Strategy’ was due to be rubber-stamped earlier this year, but has instead been delayed until after European elections take place in early June. Some areas, like Bristol, also have local elections at the same time.
With the June elections looming, questions have been raised over whether the timing of the announcement is politically motivated.
Conservative Councillors have said that any delay which puts a halt on these plans has to be welcomed. However, Conservatives are now calling on the Government to completely re-think the plans in the light of the changed economic climate and in response to the mass of public feeling against the proposals.
The Regional Spatial Strategy, originally drawn up in 2006, assumes strong economic growth of 3.2 per cent a year. With the country currently in recession and the construction industry grinding to a halt, Conservatives have argued that the house-building targets are undeliverable and must be re-assessed.
Cllr Vic Clarke (Con, Bathavon West), whose area includes plans for a 2,000-home ‘urban extension’ to Bath in addition to the 6,000 within the city, commented:
“The Government’s plans do not include any infrastructure improvements to cope with the massive house-building targets and so could mean Bath’s roads grinding to a halt. They would also see large swathes of Greenbelt land disappear around the city.
“Conservatives have been campaigning against these plans and so any delay which could put a halt on them has to be welcomed. However, if the Government is simply delaying a controversial announcement until after the June elections, this cannot be right.
“The Government’s plans were drawn up when the economy was booming and are based on strong economic projections. With the country now in recession and construction grinding to a halt, it is time the Government listened to public opinion and completely re-thinks these plans altogether.”
The Government Office for the South West received over 35,000 comments from around the South West region on its latest house-building figure, which included 21,300 for B&NES. This is an increase from its original target of 15,500, to be built between 2006 and 2026.