Abolition of Regional Spatial Strategies: a planning vacuum? - Communities and Local Government Committee Contents

7  Conclusion

144. Regional Spatial Strategies have provoked strong reactions in people. Some see them as hierarchical, bureaucratic and time-consuming, the imposition of unnecessary and unwanted targets from central Government. Others see them as a necessary level of planning, dealing with larger than local issues such as waste disposal, mineral working, energy projects and controversial accommodation.

145. We are concerned not only at the speed at which the Government has sought to abolish RSSs, but also at the apparent lack of understanding by the Government of what RSSs provide and what should replace them. The DCLG has not explained how infrastructure, economic development, housing and environment protection be retained at a strategic level nor has it explained how the current planning system will move to the new system, after the Localism Bill comes into effect, without any transitional arrangements in place. Nor has it explained how local authorities will collect data and evidence, data and evidence that necessarily underpin local planning decisions. Nor has it described convincingly how local authorities will be persuaded to work with other local authorities and the newly-formed Local Enterprise Partnerships, when planning issues affect larger than the local area. There are concerns that it may be left to the courts to intervene when local authorities are reluctant, or indeed hostile, to working with other local authorities. The Government has offered no explanation of how the duty to co-operate will be measured or enforced. It has given no guidance as to how accommodation for Gypsies and Travellers will be provided, nor how renewable energy and planning for climate change will be considered. Ministers have said that the gold standard upon which they are to be judged will be the building of more homes, but much of the evidence suggests that the New Homes Bonus may well be ineffective in increasing house building at all, let alone the building of the right homes in the right places.

146. All these gaps in the DCLG's evidence base and arguments illustrate the lack of clarity in how the new planning system will be co-ordinated and how it will work in practice. Evidence shows that there is already delay in the preparation of local authorities' development plans, and delay in bringing forward development proposals, as everyone waits to see what happens. As a consequence, there is a hiatus in planning, delaying much-needed economic recovery. The Government needs to act quickly to fill the vacuum, and create a planning system which has a chance of producing the necessary growth and development that this country needs.

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