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News - 24 January 2005

Economic Partnership responds to the South East Plan

The BHEP has expressed concerns about various elements of SEERA's South East Plan which will influnce the economy of the region for the next 20 years.

A full response can be downloaded below and the headline responses are listed as follows: -

THE ECONOMY:

We are concerned that the Assembly has made no attempt to articulate an overall vision for the south-east’s economy by the end of the Plan period. It is only by asking what the economy of 2026 will look like that we will be able to truly plan ahead.

The BHEP agrees with the Assembly’s projection of 3% growth but would caution any complacency in assuming that this level of growth will happen automatically or without considerable investment in the infrastructure.. Much of the infrastructure in the south east already operates at or close to capacity for a lot of the time and growth will not be sustained at historic levels unless this issue is addressed with urgency. The economy of the western world in the 21st Century is evolving at a faster pace than any time since the industrial revolution and , despite what we say above about the need for an overall vision, we would question whether a plan covering twenty years has sufficient flexibility. It is essential therefore that it is regularly reviewed in the light of new developments in commerce and technology and the UK’s evolving place in the global marketplace We recommend that this flexibility be built into the plan in the next draft.

HOUSING

Because of the political controversy that has surrounded housing, simple numbers have taken on an importance that has eclipsed other issues of equal importance, which is unfortunate. The BHEP is of the opinion that even the option for highest level of housing provision at 32,000 dwellings is unlikely to meet the required demand and the Assembly should seriously consider SEEDA's recommendations based on research on the subject prepared by Deloitte MCS Ltd. It is crucial that the provision of housing seeks to fulfil researched need and not merely rely on overall numbers of houses built to underpin growing prosperity It is also of the opinion that housing should be concentrated in those areas of greatest economic activity (sharper focus) where homes can be located close to employment opportunities. We welcome the proposal for 40% affordable housing.

TRANSPORT

The absence of serious improvements to the transport infrastructure will hold back the ability of developers to build the required number of houses and seriously disadvantage the entire south-east economy. The Plan’s proposals for ‘hubs and spokes’ would appear to be a re-submission of the South Coast Multi Modal Study (SoCoMMS), which was largely supported by the business community seven years ago but rejected by central government. We would urge the government to accept the proposals in 2006 but the Plan needs to be much clearer about specific improvements to road and rail networks.

We are particularly disappointed that specific improvements to the A21, A26, A23 and A27 are not included in the Plan and that the latter is not identified as an inter-regional corridor.

Gatwick is insufficiently promoted in the Plan and the potential provision of a second runway (subject to failure to control emissions at Heathrow) should not be questioned. The potential role of Shoreham as a commercial airport flying to northern Europe and UK destinations should be recognised. The Plan should warn against cross-subsidisation of airports in the south east.

PLANNING

Inflexibility in the planning system is not identified in the plan although it often hinders rather than facilitates economic growth. The lead time for major infrastructure developments like water and sewage plants is measured in decades and needs to be addressed by guidance in the Plan. Despite our desire for flexibility in some areas the planning is in this case not long term enough.

QUALITY OF LIFE

Bearing in mind that The Plan will replace the old-style structure plan, it has not exploited the opportunity to take an holistic approach to economic prosperity and well-being. The role of Learning & Skills and Culture over the next 20 years is woefully underaddressed in just a handful of priorities. And the cultural life of the region is entirely absent despite much evidence that it makes a considerable contribution to both the quality of life of the south east and its economic prosperity. We recommend that some serious work be done to rectify these significant omissions. The Assembly should work with the lead bodies in this area Sport England, Arts Council England South East, The Cultural Consortium and many others involved in the provision of cultural and sporting activities in the region.

THE COASTAL TOWNS AND CITIES

We welcome the emphasis on the regeneration of the South Coast study area but the repeated use of the word ‘resort’ to describe destination towns is a hang-over from the 1950s. It does not identify or understand the role of Brighton & Hove as an economic catalyst in this the sub region even though the city is widely recognised as a model of regeneration and recent sustainable economic growth .

WASTE AND ENERGY

The BHEP broadly agrees with policies on waste and energy but has reservations about the promotion of wind as a sustainable energy source. The Assembly needs to look carefully at the cost/benefit of wind generated energy.

PORTS

The potential of the Shoreham maritime development as a driver of economic growth in the sub region would be greatly enhanced by the development of a Ports Strategy, a process which was able to assess critically the operation of the three ports within 75 km: Porstmouth, Shoreham and Newhaven. The deployment of the land at Shoreham in the most effective way is crucial to the future economic development of Brighton and Hove and Adur, as there is so little developable land within the boundary of the Downs and the sea. The Partnership would want to see such a Ports Review within the plan.

Broadly speaking we welcome the Plan in its first draft. And we have devoted considerable energy to commenting on it because we recognise its importance. There are changes we would wish to see in specific policies and we have made comments on the headline issues. If the Plan is to make a significant impact it must unlock the appropriate investment, create the dynamic flexibility and support the imaginative economic growth that the South East needs for the next two decades.

 

Click here to download Full response to SEP Policies (MS Word 400KB)


Read related items on:
South East Plan
Brighton & Hove Economic Partnership
SEEDA
SEERA


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