HC Deb 18 December 2002 vol 396 c831
6. Mr. Tony Clarke (Northampton, South)

What plans he has to reform the planning system. [86323]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. Tony McNulty)

The Government's programme for the reform of the planning system is set out in "Sustainable Communities—Delivering through Planning", published on 18 July 2002. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is seeking to enact reforms that require primary legislation in the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Bill, introduced on 4 December 2002 and happily given a Second Reading by the House just yesterday.

Mr. Clarke

I am grateful to the Minister for his response. I am sure that many local authorities across the country will welcome the changes in the Bill that we debated yesterday, but many are apprehensive about the financial cost of the transition. Can my hon. Friend give me an assurance that local councils will be supported financially through that transitional period, so that in accepting the change there is no financial penalty for those local authorities?

Mr. McNulty

As I have said previously, the legislation that we discussed yesterday is only part of the reform of the planning system, which also includes the review and revision of circulars and policy guidance, and the introduction of £350 million more through the planning delivery grant, which is intended to meet councils' very real concerns, to which my hon. Friend alluded.

Mr. Gary Streeter (South-West Devon)

I am sure that the Minister is aware that all over the country the absence of affordable housing to buy and rent is ripping the heart out of communities. What changes to the planning law does he propose to help the provision of more affordable housing so that local people can afford to live locally? If not through planning, how do the Government intend to help?

Mr. McNulty

Given the hon. Gentleman's party and the previous Government's record, I am terribly tempted to say that he has more front than Harrods for even asking the question. On the planning reform package and affordable housing, a review of circular 6/98 will begin in January. However, an effective, responsive, flexible and speedier planning system will also help the process—that goes for the southwest and all the other regions.

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