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Last Updated: Friday, 12 May 2006, 17:04 GMT 18:04 UK
West: Housing - who decides?
Paul Barltrop
Paul Barltrop
The Politics Show West

Ashton: Growing need for new houses

It is good to be popular and prosperous. But it comes at a cost. The West is one of the fastest-growing areas of England - and that means many more houses are needed.

The Avon area must find space for 5,000 new homes every year for the next two decades.

The region stretching from Cheltenham to Cornwall must accommodate an extra one million people.

Campaigners are desperate to change this, but working out who decides the numbers of houses we get, and where, is not easy.

One big development of 8,000 new homes is due to be on countryside at Ashton Vale just outside Bristol.

David Grey
David Grey: Progressive eating away of the countryside

Among those trying to stop this is the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE).

"The progressive eating away of the countryside will inevitably lead to the loss of one of the best natural resources that the South West has," says local campaigner David Grey.

"This is unnecessary."

So who should he lobby? Planning decisions are taken by local councils - in this case North Somerset.

But they say their hands are tied.

John Crockford-Hawley
John Crockford-Hawley: Inevitable

"It is going to happen whether they like it or not," says John Crockford-Hawley, the councillor in charge of planning.

"Planning is a very hierarchical structure: government ministers set the general national policy, and then the Regional Assembly sets the more strategic policy within the area."

The Politics Show takes David to meet members of the assembly.

Two thirds are like Chanel Stevens: councillors selected by their authority. "I need affordable housing here," he insists.

"The people of North Somerset are desperate."

The other assembly members are from organisations including charities, unions and businesses.

Chris Irwin is from the Rail Passengers Committee South West.

Chris Irwin
Chris Irwin: Some sympathy for the CPRE's concerns

He is sympathetic to the CPRE's concerns. "Of course if it were my own back yard I would feel as David feels," he says.

But for campaigners his presence highlights a real problem: the people making these decisions are not accountable.

"The Regional Assembly is not democratic in that sense," states David Grey.

"For me as a local person I feel that the assembly is just another tier of government, and they are imposing those figures on me."

At least those who take the big decisions are elected. For the democratic trail leads ultimately to London, and to Ruth Kelly, the new Secretary of State for Local Government.

It is her department which sets the housing targets that regions must achieve.

So, if you do not want new houses going up in your backyard, you may have to wait until a general election to do something about it.

The Politics Show

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11 Sep 05 |  Politics Show

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