Proposals by West Midlands councils to build 365,000 new homes by 2026 take insufficient account of damage to the environment and sustainability issues including climate change, a planning inquiry has been told.
The regional spatial strategy, setting out future housing and employment growth, fails to specify how a government requirement to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by between 26 and 32 per cent by 2020 will be achieved. In the South-west councils have agreed to work towards a 30 per cent reduction target.
The Planning Inspectorate inquiry into draft revisions to the spatial strategy heard a plea from Worcestershire County Council for greater attention to be paid to sustainability.
In a written submission the council said that ,as an authority hit by climate change during extensive flooding in 2007, it was “seriously concerned” at the lack of a strong policy framework on sustainable development.
“As written, the strategy is not sufficiently challenging when considered against steps being taken by other emerging regional strategies.
“It does not set any framework towards achieving the government’s target of a 26-32 per cent cut in carbon dioxide by 2020 compared to 1990 levels and it is known that Europe is pressing the government for higher and faster targets.
“The longer it takes us to take action, the more stringent our actions will need to be, and the more demanding targets will become in cutting carbon emissions,” the council warned.
Malvern-based science and technology group QinetiQ described the spatial strategy as unsound and “not founded on robust or credible evidence”.
It criticised the strategy for adopting an “inflexible approach” to the potential for development beyond the region’s large cities. There was no scope to assess the potential for new settlements, which might provide an equally, or more sustainable, alternative to greenfield urban extensions and development in villages.
The Campaign to Protect Rural England said it was unclear how the spatial strategy would contribute to national targets on reducing emissions.