(2) if she will make a statement on the operation of the Regional Spatial Development Framework consultations; for what reasons those consultations have been instituted; what connection the consultations have with European Union policy; and what the role is of (a) the Government Office for the North West and (b) the North West Regional Assembly in the consultations;
(3) if she will publish her Department's submission to the Regional Spatial Development Framework consultations;
(4) what account will be taken of the conclusions of the Regional Spatial Development Framework Strategy consultations in her Department's plans for local government reorganisation.
Under the terms of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 every region is required to have a Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS) which sets out the Government's policies in relation to the development and use of land within the region.
In all regions (including the North West), the RSS is drafted by the relevant regional planning body (in this case the North West Regional Assembly), who then make the draft RSS available for public consultation over a period of 12 weeks usually by posting it on the web, making copies available in public libraries and sending electronic and/or paper copies to a range of stakeholders.
In all cases, these public consultations on the draft RSS are a part of the statutory process for preparing the RSS as set out in the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004, associated regulations and guidance. The strategy set out in the RSS would need to take account of any relevant European Union and UK policies. In terms of roles, in all cases (a) the Government Offices are responsible for coordinating the Government's role in the RSS process at all key stages, while (b) the Regional Planning Bodies (such as the North West Regional Assembly) are responsible for preparing the draft RSS and for implementing and monitoring the final RSS issued by Government.
Whenever the Government Office makes a response to the Draft RSS, that response is made publicly available. In the case of the North West RSS, the Government Office North West will shortly post its response to the Draft RSS on its website at www.gonw.gov.uk
The RSS covers spatial planning matters relating to the development and use of land within the region. It does not determine local government boundaries.
County councils must be consulted when Regional Spatial Strategies are being prepared and must be given the first opportunity to make detailed proposals for sub-regional strategies. In the East Midlands, counties are fully engaged in preparing the Regional Spatial Strategy for submission to the Secretary of State in the autumn and are chairing three sub-area working groups which will set out proposals. In addition, county council staff chair the various topic-based advisory groups that inform the development of RSS policy. Northamptonshire county council was closely involved in preparing the sub regional strategy for Milton Keynes and South Midlands that is already part of the regional spatial strategy. Once the strategy is published, county councils will be expected to help monitor its implementation.