The Government have decided to carry out additional sustainability appraisal work to appraise alternatives to the Areas of Search for strategic housing, business and other development introduced or amended by the Secretary of State’s Proposed Changes to the RSS. The Government wish to be satisfied that reasonable alternatives to these proposals were tested by the Sustainability Appraisal published with the Proposed Changes in July 2008. The testing of ‘reasonable alternatives’ is a requirement of the EU Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive. We expect this additional work to be completed early in the new year.
In the South West, the removal of green belt protection is only proposed to accommodate strategic developments explicitly proposed in the Regional Spatial Strategy. The effects of the green belt changes will therefore generally be the same as the effects of the developments, and they will be appraised together.
In the light of the Appraisal’s findings, the Government will decide what action to take to complete the SW Strategy, which will provide the clarity and certainty about the future framework for growth in the region which all partners are keen to see. It would not be sensible to speculate on what action will be necessary before the findings are available, or how long any action is likely to take.
Officials in the Government Office for the South West have written to local authorities advising them of the weight to be attached to the Secretary of State’s Proposed Changes to the Regional Spatial Strategy. My response to the hon. Member’s Question 292581 deals with the effect of the decision to carry out additional sustainability appraisal work on adoption of the Strategy.