To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, with reference to paragraph 7.42 of the National Infrastructure Plan published in December 2013, what the outcome was of the Government's plan to consult on measures to improve local plan-making, including a statutory requirement to put a local plan in place.
The Localism Act has strengthened the role of Local Plans, allowing local councils – in consultation with local residents – to draw up plans and determine where new development should and should not go.
However, we have resolved not to take forward the December 2013 proposal for consultation at this point in time. Paragraph 14 of the National Planning Policy Framework already provides a very strong incentive for councils to have a Local Plan in place.
As a result, 80 per cent of councils now have a published Local Plan. In addition, there are high numbers of Plans at examination. To place this in context, six years after the Labour Government's 2004 Planning Act, by May 2010, only one in six local planning authorities had an adopted Core Strategy, reflecting how the torturous regional planning process slowed down development and stymied local plan-making and local decision-making. We are working with the remaining local councils to help them deliver up to date plans.
I am aware that the Labour Party's Lyons Review proposed that sanctions should be imposed against councils without a Local Plan and that the Secretary of State should direct the Planning Inspectorate to produce a Local Plan in place of the Council. However, I believe that proposal is excessively centralising, and would be an unpalatable re-creation of the top-down planning regime that we abolished in the Localism Act.
Drawing up a Local Plan can be challenging – it involves trade-offs and hard choices, and there is no longer Regional Planning Guidance or Regional Spatial Strategy imposed from above to hide behind and blame. But it is our preference for this to be a locally-led process.