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Regions 'need spatial plan like London's'

English regions outside London and the South East urgently need a spatial plan to encourage investment, a cross-party commission has demanded.

The influential think-tank - appointed by the Town and Country Planning Association - has called for local authorities outside the capital to be given equal planning and regional development powers as those in London.

Among the recommendation in its report, Connecting England, the body suggests expanding Manchester's airport in preference to further development of facilities in the South East and building high-speed rail links to all airports to help tackle carbon pollution.

Plans for a radical upgrade of the North-South rail links, faster train services to the 'deep' South West and a new TransPennine rail route have also been put forward.

Commission chair Peter Hetherington insisted the group was neither pro-North nor anti-South, but was advocating a hard-hitting agenda for action across the country.

'England is not working to its full potential. Many in our workforce are denied the chance either to contribute to our economic prosperity or to benefit from it,' he said.

The commission included former Conservative cabinet minister John Gummer, ex-president of the Royal Town Planning institute Vincent Goodstadt and former government advisor Professor David Lock.

by Clive Walker

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