Reducing and minimising burdens in the planning system is essential if the system is to work effectively and if we are to remove a financial burden on the economy, which has been estimated in figures quoted in the Killian Pretty report as being up to £2.7 billion a year. That therefore forms a central part of the Government’s reform proposals in the localism and decentralisation Bill and the national planning framework. We have already taken specific steps, with which I would be happy to acquaint the House in more detail if time permitted—for example, by consolidating 17 regulations into one and three preservation orders into one, saving £1.5 million already.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. The £400 million redevelopment project in the Gloucester Quays in my constituency was unnecessarily delayed for more than a year as a result of being called in by the previous Government. Does the Minister agree that local planning decisions are now precisely that, that they will no longer be subject to frequent interference by the Government and that today we can send a clear message to developers and investors—in Gloucester and elsewhere—that we are open for business without delay?
Is the Minister aware that in looking at the abolition of the regional spatial strategies, the Select Committee is receiving evidence that because those strategies had an evidential base—not merely in respect of house building numbers, but in many other matters on which local development frameworks were based—many local authorities are now having to go back and redo that evidential base at a local level, causing an enormous amount of work and inconvenience to them? Did the Minister take account of those extra burdens when he decided to abolish the regional spatial strategies?
The vast majority of local authorities I have spoken to greatly welcome the abolition of those strategies, which imposed undemocratic targets on them. There is no need to rework the evidence base—it is already there. We have given local authorities the power to revise the figures that were arbitrarily imposed on them from above.