The Green Party

Position Statement on Sustainable Development

As indicated in previous submissions, South Shropshire Green Party objects to Shropshire Council’s selection of greenfield sites in Church Stretton for new housing.  

 

The site is in an AONB and there is a presumption that the AONB designation brings with it a high level of protection from suburban development (housing, roads, street lighting , car parking).

 

Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) are particularly special landscapes whose distinctive character and natural beauty are so precious that it is in the nation’s interest to safeguard them. AONBs are unique and irreplaceable national assets and along with National Parks represent our finest countryside. 

 

AONBs offer a wealth of opportunities for both people and wildlife to benefit from our countryside; as vibrant living landscapes they underpin the health and wellbeing of our society and that of our rural visitor based economy.  

 

The development of greenfield sites for housing is contrary to established principles of sustainable development , including the urgent  need to reduce carbon emissions in line with recent scientific advice from the IPPC.

 

The target numbers for new homes in the Local Plan are based on a growth model dating back to the Economic Growth Strategy for Shropshire 2017 – 2021. Since then we have seen a global and local pandemic, Shropshire Council has declared a Climate Emergency and the Government has committed the country to being ‘net zero carbon’ by 2050. We are surprised that para 4.114 mentions the 2008 Climate Change Act and not the 2019 “net zero by 2050” published on 27th June 2019.

 

The continued commitment to a high growth strategy for suburban, semi-rural and rural homes can no longer be justified in on the basis of the out-of-date growth strategy and is not compatible with Shropshire Council own praise- worthy ambitions for a net zero carbon county by 2030.

 

The allocation of housing numbers to Shropshire communities is not in our view derived from an evidence based ‘bottom up’ approach and does not take into account any assessment of actual housing need in our area. Instead, Shropshire Council has to date pursued a ‘top down’ allocation approach, where all but the smallest communities must ‘take their share’.

 

ONS (Office for National Statistics) data covering the period 2018-2038 indicates that most of Shropshire’s population growth will be driven by the 60+ age group. This may or may not alter as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and is another reason why the Local Plan should be paused until post Covid-19 trends are clearer.

  

We highlight that Shropshire Council’s own assessment of housing need, published after the main consultation  document, requires more affordable homes than planned  – by almost 10,000. So both the overall target and the proportion of affordable homes target require a complete rewrite. We also query the definition of affordable.

 

The amount people pay for their housing is taking up an increasing proportion of their income. Nationally, 2/3 of private renters pay 1/3 of their income on rent – The Green Party thinks this is wrong. The Government’s definition of "affordable" is 80% of market value. This is ridiculous and doesn't address the need of so many households in south Shropshire. The South Shropshire Green Party believes that “affordability” should be linked to local incomes rather than property values. The current definition of “affordable” as 80% of average property values is in truth not “affordable” for many.

 We don’t just need more homes, we need more affordable and particularly best quality social housing homes.  We need to make sure that any new housing in is the right sort in the right place. We need to make sure that any new houses are built to the standards we need for our sustainable future.

 

A minor adjustment to the sustainability appraisals that now includes access to existing public transport is an important but not a sufficient response to the imperatives of the Climate Emergency – (although rightly the effect has been to downgrade the sustainability of some sites). 

Reference to a local climate change strategy is of very little value given the lack of detail and force in the development policies, especially as associated detailed policies in the local climate change strategy are yet to emerge.

A Local Plan written in 2020 and covering the period up to 2038 against the background of a declaration of a Climate and Ecological Emergency and against the background of the very serious consequences locally, nationally, and globally of failing to deliver carbon reductions and biodiversity and ecosystem protections must interrogate every statement and every policy to answer the question (based on evidence) “Will this enhance wellbeing and public health ?”  “by how much will this policy reduce carbon emissions by 2030 ? ” and  “how will this policy protect the natural world  and  meet biodiversity targets ?“ . The earth’s biosphere is fragile and its physical resources are finite - we threaten our future if we try to live beyond those means – so we must build a sustainable society that guarantees our long term future.

If a policy on any subject at all cannot be convincingly related (with evidence) to its outcome measured in terms of carbon reduction it must be discarded.  If a policy (based on evidence) leads to an increase in carbon it should not have been there in the first place and must be discarded.

The Local Plan document covers the period up to 2038.  We do not even have that amount of time to make the changes that need to be made to head-off the worst consequences of the Climate and Ecological Crisis.

 

Accordingly, the Local Plan as written is not fit for purpose.  It does not give the Climate and Ecological crises the over-riding significance they deserve; it contains policies that will add to carbon emissions, which is unacceptable. Too often it does not contain convincing evidence that the suggested policies will deliver human wellbeing, public health, carbon reduction, and biodiversity protection.