Proposed Submission Core Strategy
4. MAIN ISSUES
Identification of main issues
4.1 Key issues and priorities already identified in the Sustainable Community Strategy have provided the starting point for defining the critical issues to be tackled through this strategy. The ‘Main Issues’ below also reflect the spatial characteristics and trends identified in the previous chapter, feedback from local people at the earlier consultation stages of Core Strategy preparation and the findings of the last ’Place Survey’. Regard is also had to other documents that provide a context to plan-making.
4.2 For the purposes of developing this Core Strategy, the “Top 10” strategic development issues particular to Rother district – although by no means a comprehensive list (and not in any priority order) – are seen as:
Both enterprise and levels of earnings locally are very low, which impacts on prosperity and hence on standards of living. It also impacts on the capacity of the economy to support a wide range of job opportunities, especially for younger people looking to develop careers. Economic improvement is handicapped by relatively low skill levels, a weak commercial market and poor communications. Regeneration is a particular priority for the coastal areas of the district and adjoining Hastings. The current economic climate further compounds these issues in a relative weak local economy.
The challenge of improving the affordability of housing is directly related to low earnings within the locality. The relative affordability of housing in Rother has been a significant issue for some time and is getting worse. Research in 2004 by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation2 showed Rother ranked in the top 30 ‘least affordable’ districts in Great Britain. The recent downturn has somewhat improved these figures, however the 2009 affordability ratio shows that house prices are 5.31 times earnings within the district.
affordable housing to meet all needs
The South East is expected to see the greatest impact of climate change within the UK. Incidences of more extreme weather are expected with flash flooding, increased storminess, higher sea and air temperatures and rising sea levels.
As a coastal district, it is especially important to mitigate our impacts, to reduce carbon emissions, identify potentials for renewable and other non-fossil fuel based energy and to work with the changing climate through adaptation. The Local Strategic Partnership (LSP) in setting its priorities has stated its commitment to carbon reduction within the district.
reduction and adaptation to climate
Although Rother has generally low crime rates compared with the South East and England and Wales, having a safe place to live is still a priority for local people, both young and older. It is also integral to the area’s continuing attractiveness as a place to live and work.
safe places to live
There will be many economic, social and environmental challenges facing local people over the period of this Strategy, and it is considered vitally important that these are met by having strong communities and highly engaged residents. These are all key visions for the creation of the Government’s ‘Big Society’.
strong, sustainable communities
Planning for an ageing population – in delivering services, economic activity and housing - is a particularly significant issue in Rother as its already older age profile is set to increase. However, this does not mean simply accommodating projections, but also requires a comprehensive strategy to make the area more attractive to young people and families.
an ageing population
Road and rail infrastructure gives rise to particular concerns locally, not only by businesses, but also by residents. Current prospects for real improvements in journey times, either by road or rail, from elsewhere in the region are limited. The role of Information Technology is therefore set to become more significant in terms of access to jobs and services.
As a large, essentially rural district, access to services is a particular issue. Particular threats are seen in the centralisation and increasing electronic delivery of public services, although this may also reduce access difficulties if effectively managed. An increasing focus of commerce in larger urban centres outside of Rother may threaten the viability and hence access of local shops and services.
to jobs and services
The district’s environmental designations impose stringent international and national obligations upon how land is used. Accommodating growth whilst ensuring that this does not conflict with the unique wildlife and habitats protected under these designations is particularly challenging.
At the same time, the rich built and natural heritage is highly valued by local people, who demand high design standards and proactive management to conserve.
There is a strong relationship between health and recreation, while evidence has shown that there are existing deficiencies in some leisure provision. Promoting active communities is a key priority action for the LSP.
facilities for sports, leisure and
Uncertainty about the future is inevitable, but is especially so at present. This applies to environmental conditions, energy supply and security, as well as economic and housing market conditions. Coastal change, flood risk, infrastructure schemes, development activity rates and public funding levels are locally significant uncertainties.
The most significant infrastructure uncertainty relates to the impending decision on the Bexhill to Hastings Link Road. Planning permission was granted in July 2009, but the Secretary of State’s decision following the Compulsory Purchase Order Inquiry has been delayed by the Government in the light of the review of public sector spending. The outcome will be known by the end of 2011. A significant delay, or cancellation, would have clear implications on the strategy as well as on housing and delivery and job creation. This is considered more fully in Chapters 7 and 8.
2 Affordability and the intermediate housing market, 2004, JRF