The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Mr Eric Pickles): I have today laid before Parliament the government response to the Communities and Local Government Committee’s Report: Abolition of Regional Spatial Strategies: a planning vacuum (Cm 8103). Copies are available in the Vote Office.
I welcome the committee’s report and I have carefully considered its findings. The debate has helped to inform the amendments that we made to the Localism Bill at the Commons Report stage to strengthen the duty to cooperate and my department will continue to take the findings into account as policy is developed.
The government’s top priority in reforming the planning system is to promote sustainable economic growth and jobs. We made clear in the Growth Review that our top priority in introducing the National Planning Policy Framework will be to support long term sustainable growth, through both development plans and decisions on planning applications.
We have made it plain that our decision to remove Regional Strategies was based on clear evidence that they did not work. We are determined to address this through our clear and comprehensive approach to reform: promoting economic growth and recovery through incentives such as the New Homes Bonus and a reformed Community Infrastructure Levy; encouraging local authorities to work together effectively across their boundaries through a strengthened duty to co-operate; and driving house building by combining the incentives we are introducing with the removal of top down targets.