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Pickles hits back on planning vacuum

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has responded to a select committee report which accused the government of creating a planning vacuum via its hasty abolition of the regional spatial strategies.

The Communities and Local Government Committee’s report said Mr Pickles’ actions had “created a hiatus in the planning framework, which risks producing a damaging inertia”.

It raised concerns over the government’s high court defeat to Cala Homes and called on DCLG to issue urgent interim strategic planning guidance.

But Mr Pickles has hit back at the report, arguing that no such interim guidance was needed.

In a written ministerial response he said the government had been clear as a result of the Cala judgement that the RSS have been reinstated as part of the statutory development plan.

And he defended the decision to scrap the RSS all together and argued the government’s plans would increase the number of houses built each year.

He said:  “The decision to abolish regional strategies was based on clear evidence that they did not work.

“Regional strategies were prepared by unelected bodies that lacked democratic accountability.

“Imposing targets such as housing numbers was highly controversial and generated thousands of objections.”

The select committee report also recommended government report back to the House of Commons in two years time on the effectiveness of its plans to increase building rates.

Mr Pickles agreed on the need to monitor the impact of the reforms on house building numbers but said he would not report for three years “in order to give the new regime time to come into effect”.

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