Chair of select committee says government has ’ignored evidence’ on regional plans

The chair of the committee of MPs that scrutinises the work of the communities department has slammed the government’s response to its criticisms of the abolition of regional planning.

Labour MP Clive Betts said, in a letter to secretary of state Eric Pickles, that the government’s reponse to its report on the abolition of spatial strategies failed to take account of the evidence received by the committee.

The abolition of regional spatial strategies has seen the housing targets for councils scrapped, and has been the subject of lengthy legal action from housebuilder Cala Homes, which found the department had initially acted unlawfully.

The select committee’s report found that the abolition of regional planning left a hole in strategic planning, and that the New Homes Bonus, brought in to ensure councils still have an incentive to build homes, faced a number of practical problems.

Betts said, “The committee is disappointed by the government’s response, which largely fails to take account of the weight of evidence which it received in two particular areas. The first is the need for a stronger framework for strategic planning at the larger-than-local level; the second, the problems of practice and of principle associated with the New Homes Bonus scheme.”

Betts said the committee will look again at strategic planning in the light of the publication of its draft National Planning Policy Framework, and that the government will report on progress in three years.

“I expect the committee to return to this subject at some point to see to what extent our concerns have been borne out in practice,” he said.