Archive for the ‘SEFS Specific Items’ Category
For anyone still at their computer! It’s been an interesting year for SEFS, and looking back at all we achieved during the time of the Regional Assembly (more of that at the AGM), rather a frustrating one of trying to find our voice in the confused and rather fragmented political landscape.
But we are soldiering on until the last and we do hope you can join us at our AGM on 2nd February to hear what we have been doing. Thanks to those of you who have registered to come along, but if you haven’t yet you can still do so via the SEFS website please do let me know by 16th January so I can make appropriate catering arrangements.
In the meantime have been keeping track of developments in the world of Planning and the Environment and here are some of the latest bits of news pre Christmas.
1) Planning Reforms
a. Campaign groups target MPs: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/dec/18/national-trust-rspb-planning-laws
b. MPs call for a rewrite to Planning Rules to end confusion: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-16271888
c. DCLG Committee Report brands NPPF as unhelpfully vague, and amongst other things say the default “yes” to development should be removed and that “sustainable development” is poorly defined and needs to be strengthened and extended: http://www.localism-agenda.com/2011/12/key-points-in-the-dclg-select-committee-report-on-the-nppf/ and http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/hands-off-our-land/8968668/Hands-off-our-land-cross-party-MPs-committee-tells-the-Government-to-draw-up-a-new-NPPF.html
a. Statistics for 2011: http://www.dft.gov.uk/statistics/releases/transport-statistics-great-britain-2011
b. Oxford to Bedford Rail Link to reopen: http://eastwestrail.org.uk/
a. Friends of the Earth win case against FITs changes: news story: http://www.foe.co.uk/news/legal_challenge_win_34270.html
And here’s their press release: http://www.foe.co.uk/resource/press_releases/solar_fits_victory_21122011.html
and a Christmas action – send a Christmas e-card to your MP calling on them to put solar back on track: http://www.foe.co.uk/campaigns/climate/press_for_change/mp_christmas_card_34263.html
b. Select Committee warns FITs changes possibly fatal for industry: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-16288267
c. Energy minister Greg Barker was heckled as he spoke at the Micropower Council’s Christmas drinks: http://www.edie.net/news/news_story.asp?src=nl&id=21551
a. South East Midlands LEP Networking Event 22d March 2012: http://www.southeastmidlands.org.uk/event.asp
Firstly the good news
SEFS Future – GOOD NEWS
At the AGM in November things looked rather bleak with insufficient funds in the pot to see SEFS through 2011. It was with regret that members agreed to proceed on the basis of a slimmed down version of SEFS.
However, since then our new chair Ian Hepburn has worked tirelessly to secure SEFS for another year and thanks to kind offers of increased membership from many P&EC members, £ for £ membership raised match funding from the Wildlife Trusts, £5,000 from the Environment Agency and we hope you’re continuing financial support. It looks like SEFS can carry on as it is at least until March 2012.
CALA Homes RSS Legal Challenge
This case has had more twists and turns than a fun fair ride and just this week a new judgement has lifted the “order that prevented local planners taking into account proposed abolition”. This is dependent on Eric Pickles writing to councils advising them of the impending Judicial Review due to start (in expedited form week commencing 17th January 2011). More details from Planning Daily
The long awaited Localism Bill was published on 13th December. SEFS has yet to consider the implications however member organisations have already commented in the press. Friends of the Earth is concerned that the Bill will undermine local democracy and action to tackle climate change and ask the bill be amended to give
- Clearer guidance to councils to give the green light to developments that cut carbon emissions, like greener transport and renewable energy schemes.
- A tougher ‘presumption against’ developments that cause environmental damage;
- Boost public participation in decision making. Under the proposals local communities wanting to shape development in their area will have to fund the writing of neighbourhood plans – which sets out the type of developments that communities want – which could create an unfair planning system. Those that can’t afford to draw up a plan will be at risk of unchecked development in their area.
CPRE on the other hand have welcomed the first reading stating “The Bill promises to be a significant step towards devolving power to local people through neighbourhood plans”. However they want to see safeguards included in the Bill in the form of “a limited ‘community right of appeal” this is viewed as “crucial to ensure that development is in line with the vision set out by local people. If it is not, then many may consider neighbourhood plans not to be worth the effort.”
SEFS will be keeping a watching eye on the Bill and considering the implications for the South East in the New Year.
High Speed Rail 2
SEFS Transport Group has been working on the issue of HS2 for a while now and is currently drawing up a top line position statement on the subject. This will be available on the SEFS website early in 2011.
RSPB are continuing to spearhead a campaign against the proposed expansion of Lydd Airport. The planning application was given approval earlier this year however it has now been called in for a public inquiry.
RSPB are asking groups and members of the public to write to the Planning Inspector before the start of the inquiry on the 15th February voicing their concerns over the proposed development. More details can be found on the RSPB website
Planning & Climate Coalition (P&CC)
The P&CC have recently launched a guide for local authorities on planning and climate change. It contains model policies that the group (which includes TCPA, RSPB, National Trust, CPRE, Woodland Trust and Friends of the Earth) would like to see local authorities adopt at a minimum. This has been sent to all local authorities and LEP partners.
Well the snow has now started to come down but I do hope that your Christmas plans aren’t disrupted or delayed and that you all have a Prosperous and of course Sustainable Festive Season and 2011.
I’d like to thank those of you who were able to attend the SEFS AGM at the beginning of November. I am delighted to have been elected as Chair. It is my intention to follow on successfully where Lynnette has left off, and to ensure that SEFS remains a relevant network, engaging effectively to influence policy in South East England.
We face a challenging time, particularly during the next year. The policy landscape remains uncertain; SEFS finances are precarious. And while Members at the AGM voted in favour of a slimmed down version of SEFS -reflecting the current financial realities- I and all my colleagues on the P&EC will continue to look at the opportunities to collaborate more closely with other regional organisations and seek alternative funding support for SEFS.
As well as debating the ‘Future of SEFS’ at the AGM, we also looked at the importance of continuing to influence the sustainability agenda as opportunites emerge. We all have a role to play in this, and I would encourage everyone to make use of the key messages on sustainable development SEFS has drawn from more than a decade of work on various sub-national strategic issues including regional spatial planning and strategic economic development plans. These are available on our website; please do use them whenever you are engaging with politicians, policy-makers and organisations operating at local, sub-national or national levels.
We were pleased to welcome three extremely good and interesting speakers to the AGM. Elizabeth Chamberlain from the NCVO gave us a useful insight into “the Big Society”. Tony Whitbread (CEO, Sussex Wildlife Trust) brought us up to speed on the conceptual and potential practical implications of ‘Ecosystems Services’ and their importance for the continuing well-being -and indeed survival- of the human race. Finally, Jane Vaughan (Government Office for the South East) gave us an overview of the process and intentions of the Local Enterprise Partnerships. The speakers were highly professional, entertaining and we emerged much better informed as a result of their presentations. I would like to record my thanks to all of them for sparing their time to come and talk to our meeting.
The minutes to the meeting, annual report and accounts and the presentations can be found on the useful documents page of this website.
You will note from the minutes that there are two vacancies on P&EC. If your organisation is not already represented but you would like to become part of P&EC, do please contact Ali for more details and a nomination form. I’m sure that any P&EC member will be happy to have an informal discussion with potential candidates, so do please contact us if that might inform your decision.
You will also notice on the website that Ali is compiling a weekly update on regional policy and planning issues. We hope that you find these useful, and that you will share any useful snippets to this forum.
Over the last 12 years or so SEFS has done a large amount of work on ensuring sustainability is built in to regional policy. With the demise of SEERA and then the Partnership Board we have written to SE England Councils, the South East Strategic Chief Executives and the South East Strategic Leaders Boards to outline the policies which we believe need to be embedded into the ethos of future planning whether it be at a local level or whether some sort of strategic regional level remerges when all the dust of recent changes has settled. Our overview is outlined below.
Sustainable Development and Environmental Limits
For SEFS, it is vital that environmental sustainability forms a major underpinning principle to spatial planning. Pursuing a genuine “triple bottom line” approach – with clear guidance ensuring that sustainability is achieved through integration of, and not ‘tradeoffs’ between, economic, social and environmental interests and assets – will be crucial. In this context, we are concerned that recent positive steps towards developing policies that enshrine respect for environmental limits (or ‘environmental capacity’) should be continued, with the goal that these become embedded locally.
The South East (SE) has championed the use of ecological footprint, adopting it as an indicator, setting targets for stabilisation and reduction and producing a ‘route map’ to help us get there. The principle has been adopted in recent approaches to both strategic planning and planning for economic development in the South East. SEFS maintains it is essential we continue to take a footprint approach to ensure we take account of our global as well as local environmental impacts.
We believe that climate change should be recognised as the single biggest threat to people, the economy and the natural environment in the South East. As such, it is vital that local policy frameworks acknowledge the need to reduce CO2 emissions and continue taking steps to adapt to the impacts of climate change. In order for this work to have teeth, local authorities should adopt CO2 emission reduction targets (based on consumption as well as production), which should be regularly monitored, reported and reviewed. Without a regional body to monitor and review this work it is unclear how this will continue.
The South East Plan included very positive and forward-looking environmental policies. We believe these need to be fully carried across into the new planning landscape. A key policy is green infrastructure (GI), which we support very strongly. The broad list of multifunctional GI objectives and the accompanying list of assets as set out in the South East Plan represent a good place to start. The South East Green Infrastructure Partnership is continuing to develop guidance and resources to assist the planning community to build on the policy framework initiated under the SE Plan.
Although the shape and pace of new housing developments in the SE will necessarily change as a result of the demise of SE-wide housing targets, we believe it is important that housing policies at a very local level continue to have coherence. Our priorities are set out below and we hope they can be integrated into future local housing development policies.
We believe that policies should bring together sustainability principles in design, construction and location. This means, for example, ensuring that all new homes achieve Sustainable Buildings Code level 4 and refurbishments achieve EcoHomes XB standard, preferably by 2012. We support policies that prioritise the use of local, reclaimed, renewable and recycled materials in construction and also take a sequential approach to land allocation with redundant buildings and brownfield sites being considered before construction on greenfield sites and equally that renovation is considered before demolition and replacement. The principles of respect for environmental limits also apply very strongly to proposed housing developments, including previously developed land with significant actual or potential wildlife interest or community value, which should not be developed. In addition, new developments need to avoid flood plains where this might increase flood risk elsewhere and/or threaten important or potential wildlife sites.
We very much hope that the demise of the SE-wide spatial strategy will not spell the end to the overarching principle of spatial planning. In terms of travel, we believe that taking a planned and proactive approach whereby housing, services, employment opportunities and commercial development are focused in the same location and ensuring that such developments are easily accessible by walking, cycling and public transport will all reduce the need to travel by unsustainable modes.
This includes supporting and developing the role of regional spokes by developing a complementary and integrated network of rail and express bus/coach services, with an additional focus on including a rural dimension which delivers sustainable links between towns and their nearest villages.
In addition, SEFS supports many of the existing transport policies in the South East Plan, and hopes they can be carried through into new plans. In particular we advocate policies which prioritise demand management over provision, and which foster and promote an improved and integrated network of public transport services. We hope policies will encourage development that is located and designed to reduce average journey length.
SEFS is opposed to airport expansion and any policies which are likely to lead to an increase in flights to and from the region.
Natural Resources and Wildlife
We believe that the effective protection and nurturing of natural resources and wildlife for everyone in the SE should be a key component of spatial planning and policy. We need policies locally that will protect and enhance wildlife species and habitats and increase their resilience to climate change impacts. To be effective, local policies need to be developed in the context of wider ambitions to enhance biodiversity assets, most importantly through the reconnection of fragmented habitats. Key areas where habitats have become degraded can and should be targeted for restoration and, to prevent further fragmentation of the region’s key habitats (such as heathlands and chalk grasslands). A blueprint for action has been developed by the South East England Biodiversity Forum as the ‘South East Biodiversity Strategy‘[i]. A core feature of the Strategy is the focus on Biodiversity Opportunity Areas (BOAs) to create links and corridors to support species, habitats and more sophisticated ecological functions to underpin ecosystem services which in turn are vital to social and economic sustainability.
How we manage and use water will become increasingly critical to the SE of England. Climate change, population and development pressures are all compromising our ability to safeguard what is a fundamental natural resource building block. We need policies that will safeguard supply for homes and businesses and also provide for our precious but fragile biodiversity.
SEFS is keen to see local policies that promote flood management and which deliver an integrated approach to planning and land management across whole floodplains and catchments. This will be a challenge without a Regional Spatial Planning mechanism.
More specifically, SEFS advocates a reduction in per capita water consumption by at least 20% by 2016, encouraging more efficient use in homes, buildings and businesses. We also support the promotion of ‘grey water’ use; Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SUDS); and ‘water neutral’ developments (especially in the region’s main growth areas). The rolling out of universal water metering (with suitable protection to vulnerable customers) and the development of a pricing system to reduce waste and reward wise use will form strong elements in meeting water reduction targets.
The UK remains a profligate nation in terms of its ability to generate waste from consumption. SEFS believes that we should pull our weight more strongly and aim to eliminate the concept of waste in the SE. To reach this goal, we believe we need support from policy which aims to: reduce waste generation, eliminate waste flows to landfill and for incineration, facilitate re-use, repair, composting and recycling and promote energy recovery through small scale heat and power plants and composting technologies such as anaerobic digestion.
Agriculture and Food Production
SEFS supports the development of more sustainable food production and distribution across the SE. This includes safeguarding prime agricultural land from housing and other development, and ensuring that new housing developments include access for residents to allotments and/or community gardens. Infrastructure planning should include facilities which support a localised, sustainable food economy such as abattoirs, food hubs, processing units. Retail planning must recognise the value of local and neighbourhood shopping centres and markets as outlets for locally produced food. Procurement should support sustainable food production and the promotion of sustainable diets.
Countryside and Landscape Management
SEFS believes that ensuring access to some of the South East Region’s greatest assets – its woodlands, historic parkland, downs, coast and heaths – should represent a cornerstone of policy. Policy needs to recognise the benefits which the countryside and outstanding landscapes provide, environmentally, economically and socially. To facilitate this, we believe that there should be an overall aim – reflected in all local policy – to protect and enhance the diversity and local distinctiveness of the region’s landscapes. This would include giving priority to our special designated landscapes: AONBs and National Parks.
[i] See http://strategy.sebiodiversity.org.uk/
You’d think perhaps that this photo is pre-emptive of the weather forecast for the South East for the next few days. Actually it was taken in the February cold snap this year. Snow on the beach was quite an unusual sight.
2009 has been quite an unusual year in many ways. SEERA as you all know has been abolished. To be replaced with the South East Partnership board. SEFS no longer has guaranteed seats and it has been a battle to find our niche so we can continue input to regional policy, in particular the development of the Regional Strategy. However there is a realisation that stakeholders need to be involved in the Strategy’s development and we are hoping that the New Year will see things moving forward on a positive footing.
Work has started on the development of the Regional Strategy and the Partnership Board has published a project plan. SEFS is aiming to comment on this before the Partnership Board agrees it in the Spring. Along side this the Sustainability Appraisal is being developed and Christine Drury with Ian Hepburn’s help will be ensuring SEFS is fully engaged with this process.
We hope the work SEFS does in relation to the Regional Strategy will be able to be as effective as our engagement with the South East Plan. It remains to be seen whether the Partnership Board is willing to take sustainability issues seriously but we were pleased to notice the Board has recently published a Climate Change feature on its website.
To keep up to date with Partnership Board news you can subscribe via their website to regular news updates.
Community Action on Sustainability and Low Carbon
At the AGM in October it was inspiring to hear about action taking place on the ground to develop low carbon and sustainable communities through the presentations from Jacinta Thorley from the South East Rural Communities Council and Fiona Wellings from the Greening Campaign.
There is so much going on in the the region and Climate South East are currently doing a survey of activity to try and get a detailed picture of what is happening and what support is required. The survey takes a few minutes to complete and is online until Wednesday 23rd. Please do add your details to help build as complete a picture as possible of all activity in the South East.
Local Transport Plans Round 3 (LTP3s)
SEFS has always had an active involvement in regional transport issues and this continues with our monitoring of the new round of LTPs. These are being developed now as I write by your local council. You can read more about them and what groups are already doing to influence them in the LTP post. SEFS isn’t able to engage with all the LTPs around the region but we hope to be able to share help, advice and case studies as we gather them.
SEFS General Meeting
Usually SEFS has a General Meeting in March/April time. However, P&EC has decided that it might be more helpful to have the next one in June after the election. The provisional date is 15th June so please pencil this into your diaries. There will be more information in the New Year.
There are two RAISE events coming up which may be of interest Tuesday 23rd March (Central London) Third Sector Engagement with Local Strategic Partnerships and Wednesday 3rd March VCS Health and Social Care Event (Guildford). Details for both can be found on the RAISE website
FORWARD TO 2010
2010 promises to be another challenging one for SEFS, the Partnership Board will be more established and SEFS will be working with other stakeholders to ensure strong representation. Where we can we will engage in the development of the new Regional Strategy. However, no one is quite sure what the general election will bring. A change of parliament could mean a whole new system of governance is introduce. SEFS will continue to network while members still feel there is a value in us doing so (which at the AGM we were given to believe there was), and while we still have the financial resources and time to do this. Do continue to support SEFS by renewing your membership using the SefsMembershipForm. However, please note P&EC has decided that there is a need for us to increase our standard fees slightly as these have not changed for 10 years. Don’t let this put you off though, all donations, small and large will be gratefully received. Reminders will be sent out in March.
We are grateful to SEEDA for the financial support they have given us over the last 2 years, to Surrey Wildlife Trust for providing financial administration and employing me, and now to the Environment Centre who as of the beginning of December are now providing that service.
I hope you all have a good Christmas and a Prosperous New Year.
The SEFS AGM took place on Saturday 17th October, whilst numerous member organisations had to give their apologies for the meeting, those that could attend ensured that the debate about the future of SEFS was useful and stimulating.
We were also please to welcome three speakers.
Ian Christie spoke on creating a Truly Sustainable South East his key points included:
- We have been too successful at raising the profile of climate change and need to keep raising the profile of biodiversity, ecosystems, land use etc.
- Opportunities in the emerging policy context include:
- life beyond regionalism: the need to focus on local governance, city-regions, community networks and alliances and take LSPs and Sustainable Community Strategies more seriously;
- greening the cuts: we need to provide richer visions of how cuts could work in terms of our agenda and measures of efficiency, service redesign
- the virtue of necessity: constraints on agencies and need for collaborations e.g. possible merging of quangos such as Natural England and Environment Agency so they will need allies;
- behaviour and value change: agencies like EA and NE don’t know how to foster behaviour change, ‘what no one has cracked is how to get action between Local Authorities and households’ so they will need organisations like SEFS to help;
- Copenhagen effect: in particular the coming together of faith communities there – Ian has been working on a 10year Climate Vision for the Church of England. He thinks faith communities are the key to campaigning – ‘they are a massive lever for change’. Benefits are that they work on long time scales (eg. infinity) and week in week out they have meetings in which a key figure stands up and talks about behaviour change. CofE is still more popular than football in this country, and 6bn people out of earth’s 7bn population are members of faith groups/tradition. By 2016 every Church school in England will be a sustainable school
- need for positive stories of SD futures
- Strategic opportunities include:
- Low Carbon Transition: pursue funding for pilot communities, towns and cities
- Local authorities and CRC/CAA incentives
- Where next for ‘Low Carbon Economic Area’ after Cornwall?
- SE as powerhouse for SD r&d: universities, Thames Estuary Eco-Region, renewables
- Impact of recession: search for resource efficiency, new business models, awareness of transport and energy costs, more people and organisations seeking alternatives
- His final checklist was:
- Get ready for probable sharp move away from regionalism and SNR agenda
- Green the Cuts
- Positive images and visions of a sustainable future for SE places
- Behaviour change needs powerful forces for community-level action: explore scope for alliance with Faiths
Jacinta Thorley from the South East Rural Communities Council outlined what low carbon and sustainable development initiatives were being encouraged at Town and Parish Council level.
The South East Rural Communities Council is a charity and they support the 8 county rural community councils in the region – SERCC is encouraging rural communities to take account of climate change and develop behaviour change strategies. Jacinta in particular outlined the project to create a ‘ sustainable 21st century rural community‘ She gave examples of a renewable energy strategy in St. Margarets – Kent and an energy initiative in Blewbury – Oxfordshire which included creating a low energy light bulb library and using thermal imaging to show energy loss from buildings.
Finally Fiona Wellings outlined the Greening Campaign for the meeting. The Campaign aims to give structured and supported help to communities looking to tackle climate change. There are about 110 greening communities across the South East.
We are grateful to all those who attended, particularly Ian, Fiona and Jacinta, for giving up a Saturday to come along.
The full set of papers and presentations can be downloaded as follows:
AGM Minutes 2008
SEFS 2009 Autum Newsletter
SEFS Overview of 08/09 and Future
SEFS Accounts Presentation
Ian Christie Presentation – A Sustainable South East
Jacinta Thorley Presentation – South East Rural Communities Council and Climate Change
Fiona Wellings Presentation - Greening Campaign