Assembly pulls its blessing for draft

The regional planning process was thrown into chaos last week when members of the East of England Regional Assembly voted to suspend support for their own plan.

Members of the assembly cited the lack of central government funding for essential infrastructure in the region as the reason for their withdrawal of support for the East of England Plan, which proposes 478,000 extra homes and 421,000 more jobs in the area over 20 years.

Public consultation on the strategy, which was officially launched last week (Planning, 10 December, p1), will still go ahead to gauge responses and gather comments on the development proposals.

A statement released by the assembly said it "deplores" the government's "grossly inadequate" funding for transport associated with the growth plans. It said it is suspending its support for the plan "pending a re-examination of the government's willingness to support its own aspirations adequately in financial terms".

The move was proposed by the assembly's Conservative group and passed by 43 votes to 30. It comes just a fortnight after changes proposed by Tory councillors led to a cut in housing provision in the South East Plan (Planning, 3 December, p1).

A spokesman for the ODPM said: "We are surprised that EERA has decided to take this course two days before the start of consultation, especially as this is its own document." He insisted that the government is "fully committed" to funding the necessary infrastructure.

Town and Country Planning Association director Gideon Amos condemned the move. "The real worry here is that the need for a sensible commitment to infrastructure will be used as a tactic to try and stop homes from being provided. These decisions, if replicated in other regions, could result in a massive drag on economic growth as well as worsening social problems," said Amos.

Pierre Williams, spokesman for the House Builders Federation, said the assembly's stance "beggars belief". He added: "This is pure politicking without any justification."

- See Editorial, page 11.

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