Saturday, 20 June 2009

WALC Rugby Branch Meeting - 25 June

Next Thursday I shall be attending a joint meeting of the Rugby branch of the Warwickshire & West Midlands Association of Local Councils and Rugby Borough Council at the Town Hall in Rugby. I've blogged before about the Rugby branch meetings of WALC, and once a year it holds a joint meeting with representatives from Rugby Borough Council to discuss areas of common interest.

The one item on the agenda that'll be of particular interest is a discussion concerning the options consultation on the Regional Spatial Strategy Phase Three Revision. I know you're probably thinking how can that possibly be interesting, but bear with me! First, an explanation of what a 'Regional Spatial Strategy' is.

Each of the eight English regions (not including London) must produce a Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS) that sets out how the land in each region will be used to make it a better place in which to live and work. Therefore, amongst other things, the RSS will indicate the amount of housing that should be built in different parts of the West Midlands, which city and town centres should be targeted for growth, in which areas major new employment sites are needed, how the environment can be improved, and where the priorities for transport investment are. The West Midlands RSS is being prepared by the West Midlands Regional Assembly.

The West Midlands RSS was originally published in 2004, and is now being revised in three phases: phase 1 concentrated on the Black Country part of the region; phase 2 considered housing, employment, transport and waste; and phase 3 will look at rural services (including the provision for gypsies and travellers).

So, put (reasonably) simply, the Regional Spatial Strategy Phase Three Revision will look again at the policies and options concerning rural services and make recommendations to the Government as to what should be included in the finalised West Midlands RSS, which will then become the responsibility of the local councils in the region to implement.

A significant part of the Phase 3 revision looks at the provision of adequate sites for gypsies and travellers, and this is something that has exercised Rugby Borough Council (and other councils) locally for a number of years now. Thursday's meeting will be interesting to see what their approach is to responding to the consultation exercise and the solutions they think are needed to provide the traveller accommodation that is undoubtedly needed, in the right locations that are supported by all sections of the community.

I'll blog again after the meeting, but if you want to read more, the RSS Phase Three consultation document is available here. The section relating to gypsies and travellers is found on page 25, with the consultation questions on page 45. The public consultation runs from 29 June - 14 August.

One final thought - the Regional Spatial Strategy may be considered necessary by many to plan the medium term land use needs of the region, but it's not loved by all. Just listen to what David Cameron says he'll do with Spatial Strategies should a Conservative government be elected at the next general election (fast forward to the question he's asked after 43 seconds of the video linked

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