We are shortly to go into a consultation period about a local authorities document. I can almost hear you saying, "not another consultation !" But bear with me, because this is really important.
The discussions will be all about a Joint Spatial and Transport Plan being produced by all four Councils in the West of England. It will be the basis of a blueprint for how the area will look in 20 years time. It will set out how many homes we'll build in Bath and North East Somerset, where employment space will be and how transport facilities will join it all up.
This will affect the future of your business, providing you with space to grow and the staff to help you develop. But it will do much more, and affect the lives of your families beyond 2030. So I hope you will overcome consultation fatigue and play a lively part in the process so our economy can grow for the benefit of the whole community
The target for new jobs is going to be about 95,000 by 2036 and for houses it is likely to be about 105,000, of which something like 67,000 are already proposed through existing Core Strategies. That means space will have to be found for nearly 40,000 more houses than are currently being considered. Meanwhile plans are being created for transport projects which will cost in excess of £7bn.
Priority for building is bound to be given to brownfield sites served by good transport links, but it will be impossible to do everything without breaching the Green Belt, which makes up almost half of all the land in the West of England. That will be controversial and no doubt generate strong opposition.
However, for the good of the future of our developing economy which will provide jobs for our young people and allow them to live the lives they want to, some adjustment to the Green Belt is surely inevitable. This can be mitigated by careful selection of sites and it might even be possible to put extra land into the Green Belt to offset any loss.
The fact is that some difficult decisions are going to have to be made and they will not please everyone. Whatever your view, it is important that the business community has its say.