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Strategic Environmental Assessment – And the point is…?

August 31st, 2011

I was asked this week to submit representations to a deposit plan on behalf of a landowner who wants the boundary of a town centre allocation extended a few hundred metres to include his site. It’s a great idea. It is a prime development site that could readily be developed in a manner that supports the town centre as a whole. But that’s not the point that I want to write about. What I want to vent my spleen about today is the ridiculously complex and time consuming process that making representations to plans has now become as a consequence of the SEA requirements.

The idea of considering the environmental effects of proposals at a plan making stage is on its face a good one and I applaud the EU for thinking about it. However once again the UK government has taken a simple concept, wrapped it up in red tape and translated it into bureaucratic mumbo jumbo that few regular folk can comprehend.

So now, instead of promoting the site’s inclusion within the town centre boundary and extolling its obvious benefits in terms of supporting the centre, jobs, encouraging sustainable transport patterns and the like, and confiming that no badgers or other bugs and bunnies will be harmed in the process, I now have to answer questions such as whether the proposal will “challenge anti social behaviour'”, “maintain coastal bathing waters” or, (my favourite) “empower people to take responsibility for their own health”.

But that isn’t enough. As the site I am looking at is within 2km as the crow flies from a field that some boffin has designated an SAC, I have to consider the effect of my proposed change on grazing levels, agricultural improvements and, the best of all, the effect on parasites.

Perhaps if the ecobureaucrats stopped sucking the life out of new development with pointless checklists the parasites would get a fairer deal….