MPs have deep doubts on planning reform

The abolition of regional spatial strategies (RSS) creates a vacuum in England’s planning system, says a report published by the House of Commons Communities and Local Government Committee this month.1

RSSs were strategic land use plans for England’s regions, bridging the gap between local and national issues. The MPs say abolition has caused “a hiatus in planning”, harming economic recovery.

“Renewable energy and adapting to climate change are key aims of government policy, but they appear to have been largely forgotten about in the government’s rush to abolish RSSs”, they say.

The committee’s report evaluates measures introduced in the Localism Bill (now going through Parliament). These include a new ‘duty to cooperate’ for councils on planning matters, local enterprise partnerships and the new homes bonus – meant to encourage planning permission for housing (ENDS Report 431, pp 35-36).

The House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee also published a report criticising  the government’s reform of the planning system.

Ministers say they want any proposed new development to be granted planning permission, so long as it represents sustainable development. But government has not yet set out what it means by that, in terms of land use planning.

The Localism Bill needs amending in order to do that, says the committee’s short report published in late March.2

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