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Help Leicestershire open the gates

Amy Gillespie
By Amy Gillespie
7th August 2021

Help Leicestershire open the gates to a new vision for Leicester and Leicestershire

This Strategic Vision is about bringing our collective common sense and local focus back into planning our future to allow Leicester and Leicestershire grow with the housing and jobs we need, whilst protecting our environment. Our businesses and communities can flourish, and we can add value not only to ourselves but to the future of Britain.

It will take a change of approach to implement, but we must demand these challenges are met with well-considered, robust, and sustainable long-term plans.  Our suggestions are listed below.

  1. Rethink the relationship between housing and transport

In our view, there is an unhelpful disconnect between the planning policies relating to location of new housing developments and local transport policies and strategies for the provision of different alternative travel modes to serve them.

Faced with pressures to provide for more houses, many greenfield sites in the countryside have been allocated as housing developments. Too often, these are accompanied by the provision of limited and inadequate active and sustainable modes of transport, including public transport options such as frequent bus services. The result of this failure is car dependent developments in which car travel is the dominant mode of travel utilised by their residents, with a consequent increase in emissions that contribute to climate change.

Therefore, in CPRE Leicestershire’s view, a ‘rethink’ of the relationship between housing and transport is required now. Thinking about the transport implications as an afterthought to the decision to allocate a site is the wrong approach. These could include measures to cut emissions by reducing car dependent development either through locational strategies or the development of active and sustainable modes of travel through better public transport systems.

  1. Focus on offering the right housing in the right place

Location is not the only issue with regard to housing. The number of required homes and the balance between different locations will remain highly controversial. CPRE Leicestershire’s Vision recognises the continuing need for new housing, but it has to be ‘the right housing in the right places’. We are far from achieving this. There is a strong need for more affordable housing, including in rural communities, and for housing for the elderly and disabled.

  1. Push for a greener economy

Going forward, this thinking needs to concentrate on developing a ‘greener’ economy while individual businesses focus on specific activities that contribute to sustainability and sustainable development.

Providing a ‘greener’ vision for the economy is a key element of our strategic vision for Leicester and Leicestershire.  This requires successful and green business sectors that are linked to tackling climate change, contributing to achieving net zero and protecting nature and natural capital assets. Achieving these objectives also requires the provision of sustainable infrastructure. It also requires the planning system and planning policies to enable this to happen. This should be part of the legacy of the Covid 19 pandemic, particularly from resultant changes to the urban core and town centres.

A move to sustainable transport infrastructure and services and away from an emphasis on roadbuilding is critical to achieving a greener economy.  Transport is also about the movement of goods and freight more generally as well as the connectivity and movement of people.

Given Leicestershire’s location in the so-called logistics ‘golden triangle’, the ever-expanding logistics industry in the county presents serious challenges for a greener economy, for sustainable development and for combatting climate change.  Development of large-scale logistics facilities, hubs and associated infrastructure has impacted significantly on the countryside, consuming significant areas of land in particular locations in the process.  Through vehicle movements, the industry is an important producer of carbon emissions.

  1. Protect the land that food is grown on

A viable rural economy is important. Agricultural land must be valued for its contribution to the beauty of Leicestershire as well as for its practical benefits such as food production and flood alleviation.  We must protect the land where we grow our food. Following on from Brexit, there is an opportunity to set an agricultural agenda that will be a model of best practice.  This must protect our natural resources and flora and fauna, allow access for recreation and education as well as enabling diversification which supports agricultural businesses and local rural communities.

  1. The Environment at the heart of everything

We need to do this by recognising the importance of protecting and enhancing the environment, nature and natural capital and combatting climate change. Without this recognition, we will not have a vibrant and prosperous economy.

Thus, combatting climate change, achieving Net Zero, securing the recovery of biodiversity and ecological networks and a recognition of the importance of countryside, green spaces and nature for physical and mental wellbeing need to be important elements in our Vision.

Caroline Pick