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Government rejects key recommendations on planning strategy

The Government has rejected calls from the Local Government Committee for ‘transition arrangements’ to deal with the abolition of Regional Spatial Strategies and the consequent impact on planning and housing policy.

An earlier attempt to abolish the strategies was ruled unlawful by the High Court, meaning ministers are now seeking to scrap them through the Localism Bill currently on its way through Parliament. The abolition plan has been unpopular with some housebuilders, as it will remove regional targets on new homes that must be constructed.

In the recent review into the abolition by the Local Government Committee, MPs said: “There is time to think through appropriate transitional arrangements before Regional Spatial Strategies are abolished. We recommend that the Government adopt a more evidence-based and consultative approach to policy making in the future, especially in an area such as planning, where pragmatism and consensus are valuable assets in securing active rather than reluctant consent to new approaches to local involvement in decisions affecting people’s everyday lives.”

But in its formal response, the Government rejected this, saying: “The Government does not agree that there is a need for transitional arrangements. The Coalition Agreement clearly set out the Government’s intention to abolish Regional Strategies and return democratic decision making powers on housing and planning to local councils. Councils are perfectly capable of addressing strategic issues locally, working with adjoining authorities and other bodies as needed and they will be supported by the duty to co-operate.”

It said its key aims for planning – for it to promote sustainable economic growth – could be met through national planning policy and local authorities’ individual policies.

The Government also rejected the recommendation to publish interim guidance for local authorities to avoid a potentially “damaging inertia” that the committee said could result from the current “hiatus” where councils are unsure of exactly which rules apply.

The committee also urged the Government to keep in place a “robust mechanism” to ensure each authority is obliged to cater for housing need.

It was scathing of the Government’s current policy in this area, saying: “No evidence was produced to support the Government’s view that local authorities will achieve comparable rates of house building to those in the past, let alone an increase. If the evidence of success fails to materialise very quickly, the Government is going to have to review its selection of levers of influence.”

The Government responded: “We expect local councils to plan positively for new housing development but we believe that they are best placed to judge need and we trust them to continue to plan for housing in a way that is consistent with national policy.”

The full response is available at

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