Ryeview – February 2006

Head burying and tail ruffling

John Clark writes…

First published: February 2006 – Gazette & Herald

Putting your head in the sand and letting the wind ruffle your tail feathers may seem appealing but isn’t responsible. The conflict in Ryedale, the UK and the world is between the environment and the belief that ever increasing economic growth is good for all of us. The latest piece of head burying and tail ruffling came at a recent meeting of the Ryedale Council Policy and Resources Committee.

The committee was responding to the Yorkshire and Humberside Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS) – the “superplan” for Yorkshire and the Humber. This document is vital to planning in Ryedale. The rules are: “Planning decisions will have to be in broad conformity with it”.

After very limited consideration, Policy and Resources agreed its response to the RSS. On the ‘environment’ the response was less than two lines in length. For a council that ‘puts the environment at the heart of all its decisions’ it was minimal. A fine example of tail ruffling.

The RSS and its Sustainability Appraisal are immense. They run to many hundreds of pages. What I have discovered is that the Sustainability Appraisal of the RSS was not done by the Yorkshire and Humberside Assembly. It was done for the Assembly by consultants ‘Levett – Therival and EDAW’. It would appear that the consultants influenced the RSS but are still critical from an environmental standpoint. Ryedale should also be critical: here are some of the points made and highlighted by the consultants.

“Air travel is the least sustainable form of transport, particularly in terms of climate change…airport development is promoted by government, and local authorities in the region perceive airports as an opportunity for spin-off development. The RSS could challenge government policy…but does not do so.”

What is the point of Ryedale endeavouring to reduce its Greenhouse Gas emissions by 20% on 1990 levels by 2010 if the RSS blatantly ignores the damage done by aircraft? They can also claim tacit support from Local Authorities if councils like RDC don’t protest with vigour.

“Road development: Traffic growth is a key sustainability issue in the region”

RDC has a policy to reduce volumes of road traffic. This is unlikely to be achieved if the region is allowed to get away with encouraging road use with no opposition coming from a local authority.

“Climate change targets are unlikely to be met under current trends, and the RSS does not go beyond national standards to deal with this problem.”

If the region is not planning to achieve its target, what hope has Ryedale?

The RSS is drawn up by a regional organisation with a limited democratic pedigree. If local councils let it ‘get away with it’ then the government will continue with its creeping regionalisation. For democracy to work it must be used. Of course quangos and regional government may not listen but they would hear far more clearly if the sand was removed from their ears.

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