WSE Update April 2016

Wider South East update

April 2016

This is the first of SEEC’s occasional updates on our work with London and the East of England.


WSE Political Steering Group

The Wider South East Political Steering Group met for the first time on 10 March. Representatives from the South East, East of England and London convened to set early priorities and agree a programme of work. The 15-strong Steering Group consists of five representatives each from SEEC, London and the East of England LGA (EELGA). SEEC’s representatives are:

  • Cllr Nicolas Heslop, SEEC Chairman & Leader of Tonbridge & Malling BC
  • Cllr Peter Martin, Deputy Leader of Surrey CC
  • Cllr David Burbage, Leader of Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead
  • Cllr Carole Paternoster, Cabinet member, Aylesbury Vale DC
  • Cllr Tony Page, Deputy Leader of Reading BC.

At the inaugural meeting the Terms of Reference were agreed and it was decided members from all three areas would take turns to Chair future Steering Group meetings. Cllr Jason Ablewhite (Con), Leader of Huntingdonshire DC, will chair the next meeting in July.

Officers from the three areas will share preparation of meeting papers to enable input from all viewpoints.

Priorities for future work will be the new London plan, barriers to housing and strategic infrastructure investment.

A full note of the meeting is available here.


Influencing the new London Plan

South East members are concerned that with London currently delivering less than half its annual housing target (18,300 out of 49,000), the overspill will put further pressure on housing and infrastructure in the South East. They want to ensure the London Plan developed by the new Mayor enables London to meet its demand for housing within its own boundaries.


Across the Wider South East, local authorities also want to ensure that London’s planned housing growth is complementary to housing and economic growth in the wider South East and that necessary transport infrastructure investment is made in advance of development.


The GLA has committed to confirm opportunities for both formal and informal consultation on the London Plan as early as possible and offered to speak directly with areas that have specific concerns.


Barriers to Housing Delivery

The slow pace of delivery of new homes is a shared concern that leaves thousands of planning permissions unused across the Wider South East. By sharing information and experience across local authorities and working collaboratively to lobby Government it is hoped to reduce some of the barriers to housing delivery.

Speeding up housing delivery could help London meet its own housing need (currently achieving only 40%) and reduce pressure on the South East from people moving out of London. The South East could also improve on its current 60-70% delivery to fully meet the housing ambitions expressed in Local Plans.


Wider South East partners are interested in the potential to jointly lobby Government for:

  • Discretionary local authority powers to charge council tax on stalled sites or otherwise incentivise developers to build in a timely manner
  • Council control of skills budgets to include action to improve construction skills
  • Increased access to infrastructure funding, to enable the front-loading of infrastructure ahead of approved development.

Officer working groups will share experiences of barriers to housing delivery and make recommendations to the Political Steering Group on how Government policy changes could help reduce the barriers.


Strategic infrastructure

By acting as the combined voice of local government, Wider South East members could exercise substantial influence with Government to lobby for investment in strategic infrastructure. Members agreed it will be important to concentrate on a small number of key infrastructure projects that will have economic and social benefits across a wide area.


Points raised during discussion on early priorities include:

  • Improving capacity on existing strategic rail corridors is essential to support and manage existing commuter demand
  • There is some spare capacity and appetite for growth along parts of the existing HS1 route
  • Growth potential along the Oxford-Cambridge growth corridor
  • The need for strategic improvements to water management and other types of infrastructure must also be considered.

Officers will evaluate potential investment options, based on the identified priorities and present a selection of strategic opportunities for collaborative action and joint lobbying at the next Steering Group meeting.


News Roundup

Early success for joint lobbying

SEEC work with London Councils and East of England LGA to lobby for Crossrail 2 was reflected in the March Budget. A joint letter to Lord Adonis Chair of the Treasury’s National Infrastructure Commission, asked for key commitments to ensure Crossrail 2 goes ahead. The Infrastructure Commission’s report endorsed Crossrail 2 as a priority and the Chancellor’s budget has committed £80m development funding to the project.