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Regional Spatial Strategy

Volume 498: debated on Tuesday 27 October 2009

5. When he expects the final version of the regional spatial strategy for the south-west to be published. (295525)

We have decided to carry out additional sustainability appraisal work to appraise alternatives to the areas of search for strategic development introduced or amended by our proposed changes to the RSS. It is expected that this additional work will be completed early in the new year. We will then decide what action we need to take to complete the strategy in the light of the appraisal’s findings.

Will the Secretary of State concede that his Government’s plans to destroy the south-east Dorset green belt have now been successfully thwarted? Will he concede also that the south-west regional spatial strategy, like this Government, is a dead duck?

The hon. Gentleman knows from the strength of my previous answers why I think that that would be absolutely disastrous. If the policy put forward by his spokesman were put into practice—the policy of abandoning the strategies and failing to make available the land needed to house families in this country or to create the possibility of jobs or economic development—it would be an absolute disaster. I will do everything that I can to prevent that from coming about.

Will my right hon. Friend accept that when we talk about the regional spatial strategy, we are talking not just about house building, but about other key issues, such as transport? I have just had an Adjournment debate on the redoubling of the Kemble to Swindon line. If we do not have regional co-ordination, transport will be one of the great losers. Is that not a strong argument for regional government and regional accountability?

My hon. Friend is right. I have probably made my attack on the Opposition too narrow. The reality is that they would not just sweep away land for housing and jobs; they would sweep away all regional transport planning. They would also sweep away the regional development agencies, which have been so crucial in pushing economic development, particularly over the past year.