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Pickles addresses business leaders

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has praised the British Chambers of Commerce at its annual conference for its members’ determination to make Local Enterprise Partnerships work.

He said in his speech to the conference: “I don’t have any doubt at all that without your support we would not have got many of our new local enterprise partnerships off the ground. As it is, 91% of businesses and 21 million employees are now covered by LEPs. This is a huge achievement in three months.

“It’s an indication that there was ambition and ideas that have been out there for such a long time - waiting to be heard. This government was clear of one thing when it came to fixing the economy. That it is better to work with the market than against it.”

He also explained more about the newly-formed Enterprise Zones, comparing them to clothes horses – “you can choose what you hang on them”, he said.

He added: “As long as it’s high on ambition and low on bureaucracy then it will work.

“There will be common themes and goals across all the zones, but it will be the differences between them that make them great. I’m delighted by how quickly LEPs have responded to the call for action on Enterprise Zones. Some named sites already and there are more to come.”

He concluded: “There is no doubt in my mind that when I became Secretary of State, the single biggest drag anchor on growth was the planning system – it’s expensive, bureaucratic and it doesn’t work. But we've recently launched the planning guarantee, ensuring that the journey from application to decision takes less than a year. We’re also working to reduce the over 7,000 pages of planning guidance down to 70 – and we'll be consulting on that. I intend that you should be able to work out planning issues without needing to seek advice from leading counsel. This is good news for communities; good news for growth but likely to be bad news for the legal profession. If your planning silk has to think twice about that third week in Tuscany or whether to buy the Lamborghini after all, that's certainly a price I'm prepared to pay.”

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