Friday, 22 January 2010

Regional Spatial Strategy Update

The Regional Spatial Strategy continues on its long, slow grind towards completion. If you remember, the RSS is a West Midlands-wide policy document, prepared by the West Midlands Regional Assembly, that sets out the long term objectives for the use of land across the region. Included within this are policies about the scale and distribution of new housing development, where investment in transport infrastructure will take place, and policies for improving the environment.

It's been of particular interest for Shilton Parish Council because the RSS will also specify how many new gypsy and traveller pitches each council in the West Midlands must make provision for during the next 20 years. This is being done by estimating the likely need for new pitches across the region, and then deciding how many of these should be allocated to each council area. Once this figure has been settled on, the local council (eg. Rugby Borough Council) must agree its own planning criteria that, once applied, will result in planning permission being given for the number of pitches that it is required to accommodate.

In other words, the Regional Spatial Strategy tells each council how many gypsy and traveller pitches there must be within their local area, and then the local council has to decide itself where within its boundaries it will give permission for these pitches to be located.

Back in August last year, there was a public consultation on the proposals for how many pitches should be allocated to each council area. The consultation provided three different possible options from which to choose, and which would have resulted in Rugby borough having to accommodate either 66, 61 or 55 additional pitches in the period 2007-17, depending on which criteria was adopted for allocating the 939 total additional pitches that it was considered the West Midlands needed.

Bringing things up to date, the West Midlands Regional Assembly have now published their preferred option, based, in part, on the responses received to the consultation. And they've had a change of heart!

Neither of the three options consulted on has been adopted. Instead, they have come up with a new fourth option, which is to allocate pitches as and where the need arises (and that was the option that would have resulted in 66 new pitches for Rugby borough), but in an attempt to avoid too many pitches ending up in any one council area, each council will have its allocation capped at a maximum of 42. And that is the new total that has been allocated to our borough (the surplus 24 pitches from the original 66 having been reallocated to Coventry[12], North Warwickshire[6], Tamworth[3] and Warwick[3]).

As a county, Warwickshire will have to find a total of 152 extra pitches between now and 2017 to accommodate the expected increase in gypsy and traveller population. This will be divided up as follows:
  • North Warwickshire - 16
  • Nuneaton & Bedworth - 29
  • Rugby - 42
  • Stratford-on-Avon - 42
  • Warwick - 23

These proposals will now be the subject of a further round of consultation, with a view to a final decision being taken by the West Midlands Regional Assembly at its meeting in March. Things could still change, but I'll let you know what's happened as soon as I hear!

A copy of the full report that contains all of this information can be read here. Pages 8-39 of the report specifically relate to the allocation of pitches issue.

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