To all Members of the RYDA.
As you will see from the Draft Letter below, the Boundary Committee is charged with recommending what could be major changes to the arrangements for local Government. Any changes will affect us all and will be in addition to the build of the Sherford New Community. Plymouth, already a Unitary Authority, might well wish to expand into its near abroad to include Sherford and some areas West of the Tamar. Teignbridge feels under threat from the Torbay Unitary Authority who will need more land for increased housing. There would seem to be a need for a genuinely “Rural Authority” to look after our wider interests.
I would welcome any views on this proposed letter which I would wish to despatch on FRIDAY 11th APRIL. In general, your committee would look for your support on the principle that it is better to get one’s oar in now, rather than have to attempt to attack solutions not of our own making later.
From Robin Hogg. Chairman, River Yealm & District Association.
Anchor House, Pillory Hill, Plymouth PL8 1ED.
Telephone: 01752 872366. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
30th March 2008.
To: The South Hams District Council.
THE BOUNDARY COMMITTEE – 2008.
Introduction. The Secretary of State in December 2007 asked the Boundary Committee to look at local Government Structures in Devon, as an alternative to the Exeter bid for Unitary Status. In so doing, the S of S asked specifically for advice as to whether there could be alternative unitary solutions for Devon, which may involve changes to Local Authority Boundaries. This Boundary Committee will consider only stand-alone Unitary Councils as options for change. Furthermore, the boundaries of Plymouth and Torbay are to be considered but not County or Parish boundaries.
The S of S went on to say that any Unitary Council created because of this review must enjoy a broad cross-section of support, provide strategic leadership, achieve neighbourhood empowerment, deliver value for money and meet an affordability test. Interested parties, not just Local Government Bodies, have been asked to submit “concepts” with an evidence based argument of unitary government structures for Devon.
The RYDA would wish to ensure that any solution proposed had an over-arching rural focus and that the numerous Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Areas of Great Landscape Value, Sites of Special Scientific Interest, Special Areas of Conservation and Designated Landscape were protected and managed effectively. We would also wish to see the various Shoreline and Estuary Environmental Plans run by local Authorities that understand and care for them.
The Proposals. It is for these reasons that the RYDA would support the proposals currently coming forward for a South Devon and Dartmoor Unitary Authority based on the area currently covered by the South Hams District Council, Teignbridge District Council, West Devon Borough Council and the Dartmoor National Park. This grouping would seem to make geographic sense and would be of manageable size for both administrative and practical purposes. Any proposals for a larger rural grouping would run across many difficulties: transport links in Devon run East to West rather than North to South and there are many differences that would mitigate against so large an area being administratively efficient.
In the real world, investment and other priorities tend to flow towards urban communities where deprivation is the more marked and the problems more acute. If rural communities and Parishes are to have a voice and the countryside is to be protected, then some sort of Rural Unitary Authority would seem to be a paramount necessity, especially in the face of the obvious pressures for urban growth and regeneration thrown up by the Regional Spatial Strategy and the impending build of the Sherford New Community. The present Unitary Authorities in Plymouth and Torbay are unlikely to want or to be able to manage the numerous environmental responsibilities outlined above.
There will be drawbacks to any proposed grouping of the current Local Authorities but it would be the RYDA’s view that any proposed solution should try to:-
· Put rural issues first.
· Give local people, through their Parish and Town Councils and other bodies, more say in how money is spent and services are delivered.
· Provide local political representation that is in touch with their communities.
· Provide a proper balance between crucial rural interests such as Affordable Housing, Rural Businesses, such as agriculture and tourism, and the need to preserve the environment on which all depend.
In our view, we should also capitalise on the current common focus and experience represented by joint working between the various local Authorities, symbolised by both South Hams and West Devon having appointed a common Chief Executive Officer.
Conclusion. If a rural voice and environmental influence are to be effective, there must be a structure in place that can be both sensitive to those who live in the countryside and effective in delivering the sort of environment and services we all wish to preserve. This must demand some sort of Rural Unitary Authority that can determine, rather than merely try to influence, moorland, rural and coastal policy.
The RYDA, therefore, supports the proposed Rural Unitary Authority that would combine the areas of the South Hams District Council, Teignbridge District Council, West Devon Borough Council and the Dartmoor National Park.
Robin Hogg, Chairman, River Yealm & District Association.