We will come to the heart of the undermining of the role of elected representatives when we reach the rather extraordinary proposals on neighbourhood forums. Milton Keynes is an admirable city, and I wish it well for the future. It will no doubt want to meet growing demand for local economic and housing development, and the hon. Gentleman will no doubt share my view that the last thing we need is nimbyism that impedes either of those objectives.
The Opposition believe that tabling amendments to strengthen the duty to co-operate, which is currently nothing more than a duty to talk, is essential to put sustainable development at the heart of planning, to strengthen the duty to consider climate change, which does not apply to the provisions of the Bill on neighbourhood planning, and to provide a statutory basis for the national planning policy framework. All those measures are essential for the proposals even to begin to amount to a planning system that is fit for purpose. Making such changes is all the more essential as a result of the Secretary of State’s actions to date, because it is clear that we do not have a planning system that is fit for purpose.
The abolition of the regional spatial strategies and, crucially, how it has been handled has thrown the planning system into complete confusion. It has created a vacuum at the heart of the planning system that will not be filled until the Bill receives Royal Assent, which could be as late 2012. The way the current planning system has been torn up for the proposed new system has proved nothing short of a disaster for house building. The proposed replacement will not offer the necessary framework to resolve greater-than-local issues.