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Regional Spatial Strategies

Volume 516: debated on Thursday 21 October 2010

The previous Government’s regional spatial strategies were revoked on 6 July, and the remaining provisions will be repealed through the localism Bill, which will be introduced later this year. Along with the new homes bonus, which my hon. Friend the Minister for Housing and Local Government described, it is a key element of our plans to return decisions on housing and planning to local communities, allowing them to shape their neighbourhoods.

Green belt land in my constituency and elsewhere remains under threat as a direct result of the previous Government’s regional spatial strategies. What steps will the Government take to ensure greater green belt protection in future?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. One of the problems of the previous regional spatial strategies was the imposition on local communities. In my hon. Friend’s area, the region forced green belt reviews on his community. The same applies to Manchester, Liverpool, West Yorkshire, Stevenage, Hemel Hempstead, Woking, Guildford, Harlow and Oxford. That is not the way to proceed. If one wants consent for development, one must involve local people and allow them to determine the character of their area.

Yesterday the Prime Minister said it was important to protect economic growth, but actions speak louder than words. Since the Government came to power, local authorities have already ditched plans for 160,000 homes—1,300 every day. Is it not the case that abolishing the regional spatial strategy has paralysed the planning system, forced building workers on to the dole and contributed to slower economic growth?

The answer is no.

May I welcome the hon. Gentleman to the Front Bench? He is an ambitious sort. I do not know whether it reflects on the current performance of the Leader of the Opposition, but I note that the hon. Gentleman has registered the website I do not know whether that is the start of a glorious career here.

Order. I have to tell the Minister that although that is a fascinating nugget of information, it has nothing to do with regional spatial strategies, on which I know that he will now focus.

I am glad that you are as fascinated by that as I am, Mr Speaker. If we want a serious discussion, it is important that we change the situation in which all planning applications in this country are seen to destroy quality of life and are fiercely resisted. That is the sad state of things, and we must understand that we need to unblock that. One way to do so is to ensure that communities benefit financially through incentives. The other is to allow local communities to help to specify and design the characters of their local neighbourhoods. If we do that, we can take some of the poison out of the system and have more new homes.