My response to the West Midlands Regional Spatial Strategy consultation January 2007
The West Midlands Regional Assembly is responsible for the development of the West Midlands Regional Spatial Strategy, the overarching spatial strategy (i.e. a strategy that can be expressed by an annotated map) for the region, which lays down the long term land use (for example, areas for housing development or environmental enhancement) and the planning framework for transport infrastructure. It is a statutory plan, in that all the local development frameworks and plans nested within it must conform with its principles, policies and proposals. It therefore provides an important means of integrating these subsidiary plans.
The process of developing the West Midlands Regional Spatial Strategy, by means of consultations and revisions, has been separated into three phases. Below you can find my response to the consultation on the Spatial Options for the Phase Two Revision of the Strategy. In total, the West Midlands Regional Assembly received some 1,300 responses to the consultation, from members of the public and organisations across the Region. These will inform the development of a ‘Preferred Option’.
The West Midlands Regional Assembly intends to hold an informal consultation event on 26th July 2007 in the centre of Birmingham to discuss an emerging draft of the Preferred Option, to which all regional partners and communities will be invited to attend. If you wish to attend this event, the Assembly requests that you log your interest by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or telephone (0121 678 1042) by 5th July 2007. Further details will then be forwarded closer to the event.
For more information on the West Midlands Regional Spatial Strategy go to http://www.wmra.gov.uk/page.asp?id=49
Response by LYNNE JONES MP to the Phase 2 consultation on the West Midlands Regional Spatial Strategy
Olwen Dutton, Chief Executive
West Midlands Regional Assembly
92-93 Edward Street
Date: 15 January 2007
Dear Ms Dutton,
Subject: Regional Spatial Strategy Phase 2 Revision – Consultation
Thank you for your letter of 8th January 2007 with regard to the above. I am writing to give you my response to some of the Key Questions posed in the Consultation.
There is an urgent need for substantially more social housing to compensate for those council houses that have been demolished or sold. For a start, there are a number of demolition sites in Kings Norton where new affordable rented housing could be built but no funding has been identified. There is a need for more houses not flats; Birmingham City Council is hypocritical in arguing for the demolition of council flats because there is no demand for this type of accommodation, but then granting planning permission for hundreds of such dwellings.
There is a need for locally based waste processing and recycling facilities, not just to meet the public demand and targets for municipal waste recycling, but also for the recycling of waste produced by local businesses. The Minister Ben Bradshaw has stated, with reference to the Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) Regulations 2005, that “Producers will … increasingly need to work with local authorities to ensure that packaging materials are collected by local authorities for recycling, particularly where producers’ needs extend beyond the local authorities’ own recycling obligations”.
In Birmingham a doorstep collection of glass and plastic still takes place only on a pilot basis and there is still no collection point to which people can take their waste plastics. The Birmingham City Council has attributed this to the lack of a plastics processor in Birmingham and the need to feed the Tyseley energy-from-waste incinerator. (Plastics collected on the pilot scheme are transported to a processor some distance from Birmingham.) I am therefore concerned that the existence of the Tyseley energy-from-waste plant is discouraging the Council from recycling on city-wide basis or from setting up facilities that allow solutions further up the waste hierarchy. Any spare capacity at Tyseley should be sold to neighbouring districts to convert their non-recyclable or non-compostable materials (which might otherwise go into landfill) into energy. Clearly there needs to be much improved coordination at a regional level with regard to waste.
I agree that strategic park and ride facilities are needed at Longbridge and Quinton M5 J3; and in addition at the junction of the A435 and M42.
As I commented in the House of Commons, the UK Highways Agency’s £1.2 million M42 Active Traffic Management (ATM) scheme concluded that the only way to reduce congestion was to introduce some form of road pricing. I am disappointed, therefore, that the leadership of Birmingham city council, like other local authorities in the west midlands, has knocked back the principle of road pricing and is still consulting on that matter rather than on the practicalities of introducing such a scheme. There is a need for political leadership and vision on this issue. The successful London congestion charging scheme was introduced despite its being initially unpopular.
We need both a national and a local charging scheme as we have congestion in our city centres and urban areas and on our motorways. I am in favour of a national scheme to reduce congestion which includes some road pricing, though I am mindful that this tax should not simply penalise urban workers to the benefit of those living in rural areas where the roads are less crowded. We need a regionally based charging system if, for example, traders within the West Midlands conurbation are not to be differentially (and unfairly) affected by congestion charging. The Government is therefore right to encourage council leaders, often from different political parties, to get their act together.
If we get the economic growth that we want in the UK, a 25 per cent increase in congestion is predicted over the 20 years to 2021, hence there is an urgent need for road pricing. Given the complexities of the West Midlands conurbation, which is not one centre but a number of interlocking centres, a technological ‘leapfrog’ to some sort of sophisticated satellite system, rather than a camera-based system, would be preferable, and I understand from transport experts that such systems may be closer to development than was hitherto believed to be the case.
Of course, road pricing must be done in conjunction with increased investment in public transport. Although the Government has increased public investment in transport, it has not, outside London, been on the scale that is needed. I understand that spending on London is three times that on Birmingham and Manchester—or five times if one includes the £3 billion prudential borrowing that Transport for London is able to put in.
Finally, I would like to see far more cycling in our urban areas, which would not only help to relieve congestion, but would make the public fitter. As a cyclist myself in London and Birmingham, I feel safer in London, although not entirely safe. There are scarcely any cyclists in Birmingham, whereas there are increasingly large numbers of cyclists in London. Investment in cycling in places such as Birmingham is minuscule in relation to the sums invested in our roads. The traffic engineers still do not think of cycling when investing in road schemes, even painting a few white lines to give cyclists feeder lanes and advanced stops. Much greater investment is needed to increase the safety of cyclists and to raise the public perception of the safety of cycling.
LYNNE JONES MP