§ Mrs. Ellman
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions when he intends to publish his response to the recommendations of the panel that conducted the Public Examination of Draft Regional Planning Guidance for the North-West; and if he will make a statement, 
§ Ms Keeble
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions is today publishing for public consultation proposed changes to the Draft Regional Planning Guidance for the North-West (RPG13). They are based on the recommendations of the independent panel that held a Public Examination into Draft RPG13 in February and March 2001.
Draft RPG was prepared and published by the North-West Regional Assembly (NWRA). Its overall strategy is to establish a broad framework for the preparation of development plans by the North-West's local planning authorities up to 2016. It aims to achieve greater economic competitiveness and growth with associated regional progress; to secure an urban renaissance in the cities and towns of the North-West; to sustain the region's smaller rural and coastal communities; to create an accessible region; to assure the prudent management of the region's environmental and cultural assets; and to secure environmental quality. We support this and, as recommended by the panel, we are proposing changes to ensure that the strategy is more clearly expressed and relates clearly to the policy chapters. It is important that the implications for development plans and other strategies are clear and unambiguous in order to make a real difference on the ground.
A key issue for the region is to bring about the renaissance of the urban areas by encouraging economic growth and regeneration in a sustainable way. To achieve this we are promoting the renewal of the region's urban areas by concentrating resources upon the selective refurbishment, conversion and redevelopment of outworn building stock, and the comprehensive improvement of older and unpopular neighbourhoods. At the same time, we are proposing to include a reduction in the annual rate of provision of totally new housing (unrelated to clearance) by 15 per cent., and increase the proportion of housing provided on previously used (brownfield) land from 65 per cent. to 70 per cent. The proposed changes give added weight to avoiding any premature release of greenfield land which would undermine attempts to promote the use of recycled land and the redevelopment of existing housing areas.
The proposed changes set out projected annual housing provision rates in Table 5.1 and policy on housing provision in Policy UR7. We expect RPG to bring forward an integrated approach to housing renewal at regional and sub-regional level, recognising that the development of sub-regional strategies should look beyond purely housing considerations, and allow for holistic approaches, which include economic, environmental and social elements and mechanisms. We also expect that in developing and 114W implementing sub-regional strategies there will also be a need to have respect for local area/neighbourhood diversity.
Tackling low demand and abandonment lies at the heart of the revised strategy. In underlining the importance of these proposed changes I also wish to draw to attention to the pathfinder initiative "Action to Tackle Housing Abandonment" announced by the Secretary of State on 6 April 2002. Pathfinders will be formed in Greater Manchester (Manchester—Salford, Oldham—Rochdale), Merseyside (Liverpool, Sefton and Wirral), East Lancashire (Blackburn, Hyndburn, Burnley and Pendle). The role of the Regional Assembly, the North-West Development Agency and local planning authorities working with housing and other partners is to pursue a fully integrated response to these issues of low demand, high vacancy rates, falling housing numbers and abandonment, wherever they are to be found. We would welcome views on whether the proposed changes provide an adequate planning framework for tackling low demand and on the sub-regional approach to housing renewal set out by Policy UR6. In particular, we welcome views on whether the proposed changes are sufficient to prevent the unnecessary release of greenfield land for housing. Alternatively, we need to consider whether there should be further changes to reflect the recommendation made by the Transport, Local Government and the Regions Committee that no new planning permissions should be granted for greenfield sites.
The panel recommended the merging of the original Core Strategy/ Development Principles and Spatial Development Framework chapters. After careful study we have decided that it would be better to keep the two chapters apart but re-draft them. In so doing I believe that we have kept true to the spirit of what the original draft intended but added a Core Development Principle (on economic competitiveness with social progress), and expressed the Spatial Development Framework with greater clarity. I would particularly welcome views on the proposed priority for urban renaissance resources (set out in Policy SD1) as suggested in the panel's report (R5.6a).
The panel recommended the development of Table 11.1 in Chapter 11 on Monitoring, Implementation and Review. While attempting to set out targets and indicators in the form suggested by the panel there is a need to develop these further and views on this would be particularly welcome. To help progress this in line with the panel's recommendations, there will be a seminar for stakeholders during the consultation period and assistance from the assembly will be invaluable in this matter. As part of that deliberation an action plan will be considered in line with the panel's recommendation (R13.2).
During the Public Examination it was acknowledged that there is a considerable amount of further work that needs to be done and a range of issues that will require an early review of both RPG and the Regional Transport Strategy by the NWRA. Specifically, guidance will need to take into account the findings of a number of studies including those on Air Service; Multi-Modal Transport Studies; Public Transport Accessibility Profiling; Regional Freight; Regional Park and Ride Sites; Renewable Energy Resources; Transport Demand Management; Regional Park Resources; Regional Waste Facility Requirements; Regional Derelict Land Survey; Assessment of distribution and effectiveness of a variety 115W of Waste Minimisation Initiatives across the Region; Review of Urban Potential Studies; and the implications of reviews of PPG 25, MPG6 and the Proposed Policy Guidance on the Extraction of Minerals from the Seabed.
In considering these proposed changes and carrying out future review of RPG13 it is important that account is taken of the principles set out in the Planning Green Paper1, in particular the need to make RPG shorter and more strategic; more regionally specific; and more integrated and coordinated with other regional strategies; the increasing importance of introducing sub-regional policies within RPGs will also need to be addressed; and ensuring that the RPG process does not avoid making difficult decisions. Such a review is intended to help develop RPG13 and I am sure that the NWRA will continue to embrace the challenge of helping to implement and develop the Guidance. Consequently, while the proposed changes to the policies in this Draft RPG should be the focus of attention, views are also invited on the changes to the supporting text, including on the extent to which there is any scope for it to be shorter, clearer, and more regionally focused. We intend to revisit this issue following the period of consultation.
There will now be a 13-week consultation period on the proposed changes which will end on Friday 16 August. Copies of the relevant documents have been placed in the Libraries of the House and provided to all of the region's MPs.1 Planning: delivering a fundamental change. Published February 2002.