Communities secretary Eric Pickles has been slammed by an influential cross-party group of MPs for his response to their concerns about planning reforms
Labour MP Clive Betts, chair of the communities and local government select committee, wrote to Pickles last week following a report by the committee into the government’s abolition of regional plans.
Betts wrote: ‘The committee is disappointed by the government’s response, which largely fails to take account of the weight of evidence which the committee 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.’
Pickles revoked regional strategies shortly after coming to power but was forced to reinstate the plans after a court challenge brought by developer Cala Homes. The government has confirmed its intention to scrap the plans for good, despite concerns raised by the committee about the need for strategic planning.
Doubts were also raised by the committee about the likely effectiveness of the New Homes Bonus. Betts’ continued: ‘We were not convinced that the scheme would ensure that the sum total of assessed local need for new housing adds up to national need; we also noted concern about the lack of a fallback position or alternative plan if the New Homes Bonus fails to raise levels of housebuilding.’
The letter ends: ‘We are pleased to see that the government has agreed to review progress and report back to parliament after three years. Failing what would be a welcome change in government policy in the light of the substantial weight of evidence submitted to us, I would expect us to return to this subject at that point or earlier, to see to what extent out concerns have been borne out in practice.’
Read the letter in full here