Quality homes, at a price local people can afford, nature and green spaces, sustainable transport and addressing the climate emergency have all been highlighted as top priorities in responses to a West of England Combined Authority survey, published today (10 March).
The Future of the Region survey asked nine questions about the priorities for the region’s emerging Spatial Development Strategy (SDS) and included a range of important social, environmental and economic issues. It highlighted opportunities for the SDS to contribute to its overarching objective of clean, inclusive recovery and growth for the region.
In general, the survey results demonstrated high levels of support across the emerging priorities and principles of the SDS. As identified by several participants, when asked what the most important vision for the future of the region is, the SDS priorities were all acknowledged as important objectives and many of them are interconnected. The responses in the survey provide a greater understanding of the things that are most important to people who live and work in the area.
The top themes that repeat throughout the survey responses were:
- The provision of quality homes that are affordable (relative to local incomes) is seen as a key priority for the region
- The importance of providing space for wildlife and nature is rated very highly by respondents. Access to nature and green space is also a key concern
- There are high levels of support for activity to address and prioritise responding to the climate emergency
- A high-quality sustainable transport network is viewed as key to delivering a successful spatial strategy.
West of England Mayor Tim Bowles said: “I want us to see sustainable development and a clean, inclusive recovery and growth for the region. The Future of the Region survey findings will help make sure we do that and ensure the views of our residents form part of this important work.
“With this feedback, we can make sure we identify the most suitable, broad locations for development and investment and understand the opportunities, challenges and issues for our communities and how we can address them.”
The Future of the Region survey was carried out between 3 November and 14 December 2020. A total of 1,329 individuals and organisations took part in the engagement to share their views.
The survey was an informal engagement exercise and the responses were the first step in developing a draft of the SDS (alongside evidence and studies). The SDS and supporting evidence is being developed based on national policy, technical assessments and ongoing engagement with key stakeholders, alongside consideration of the outputs of this engagement.
Once the draft SDS is prepared later in 2021 it will be subject to further engagement and a full statutory consultation for 12 weeks, providing an opportunity to formally comment on the proposed plan.
Councillor Tim Ball, Bath & North East Somerset Council’s Cabinet member for Housing, Planning and Economic Development, said: “These results are an important step forward in developing our region to meet the long-term needs of our communities. They will also help inform our own Local Plan for Bath and North East Somerset which will be prepared alongside the Spatial Development Strategy. It’s pleasing to see that sustainable transport is a top priority for many residents, as this is going to be key in tackling the climate emergency.”
Councillor Nicola Beech, Bristol City Council’s Cabinet member for Spatial Planning and City Design, said: “Bristol is committed to delivering affordable homes, addressing the climate and ecological emergencies, and securing sustainable transport for all. It’s clear from the survey that these concerns are shared across the West of England. As the SDS progresses, we will work to ensure these priorities are addressed, using the UN Sustainable Development Goals to directly guide the strategy, as we plan for a more inclusive region.”
Councillor Steve Reade, South Gloucestershire Council’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Environment and Strategic Infrastructure, said: “The residents and businesses of South Gloucestershire look to us to help create the right conditions to enable them to thrive and prosper, and we are committed to this. Understanding the priorities of our communities is therefore an important part of our plan-making and the ‘Future of the Region’ study provides us with a vital insight into those issues. The SDS and our Local Plans which will follow, will provide the blueprint for us to address the climate and environment emergencies, to bring forward more sustainable patterns of growth and transport, and create high quality places with the affordable homes our residents need.”
To see the results of the Future of the Region Survey, please visit: http://bit.ly/SDSengagement.