REGIONAL PLAN SHOULD PRIORITISE HAPPINESS OVER ECONOMIC GROWTH, SAYS MEP
REGIONAL development in the South-East should pursue human well-being rather
than simple economic growth, according to Green Euro-MP Caroline Lucas.
In ‘Living in the South-East’, a detailed response to a South East England
Development Authority (SEEDA) public consultation on the region’s future, Dr
Lucas says the South-East’s rapid economic growth has done nothing to
improve residents’ wellbeing – which has remained constant since 1972 in the
face of rising crime, climate change, resource depletion and family
Dr Lucas said: “Instead of targeting simple economic growth, the
South-East’s Regional Economic Strategy should put social well-being and
environmental sustainability at its core, alongside increased economic
Her comments are made in response to SEEDA’s public consultation on its
‘Regional Economic Strategy’ (RES) for the next decade, which proposes a
strategy of seeking to maximize economic growth and develop the region’s
so-called ‘knowledge economy’.
But Dr Lucas argues for a RES which tackles the region’s likely problems and
challenges – from water shortages and road congestion to pockets of social
deprivation and an ageing population – whilst measuring success using an
Index of Sustainable and Environmental Welfare (ISEW).
An ISEW would not include ‘defensive’ spending to offset social and
environmental costs – but would incorporate a value for unpaid caring and
domestic work as well as reflecting changes in income distribution.
Dr Lucas said: “The South-East economy is over-heating: the absence of a
coherent regional policy is increasing the imbalance between the South-East
and the rest of the UK, and the pressure on the region’s resources and
“The Government has proposed new houses, roads and airports for the region
when this will increase the pressure on the South-East’s fragile environment
and widen the gap between its rich and poor – already wider than that
between any of the UK’s regions.
“SEEDA’s RES will shape the future of the South-East for at least the next
ten years – that’s why it’s so important that we get it right.
“Many of SEEDA’s proposals for ’smart growth’ are very welcome, such as its
commitment to prioritise development on brownfield sites, and its
neighbourhood regeneration proposals. But the South-East already boasts the
highest economic growth in the UK and this does nothing to alleviate the
region’s very real, and worsening, problems: the widening gap between rich
and poor, traffic congestion and inadequate public transport, lack of
affordable housing and increasing pressure on the region’s environment and
“Put simply, it is time to stop measuring economic success in terms of GDP
growth alone and prioritise such factors as sustainability, quality of life
and environmental protection too.”