From Mr Paul Hackett.

Sir, Blaming the planning system for our economic woes (“Planning reforms boost local power and growth”, Comment, September 5) is an old Treasury wheeze, wheeled out in desperate times.

As a special adviser to planning ministers between 1997 and 2005, I was asked to investigate Treasury claims that planning inhibits growth. I failed to find any convincing evidence, other than planning controls holding back speculative development by developers and out of town supermarkets and hoteliers.

Research by the former Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions and detailed reports by the House of Commons housing and planning committee continued to show that planning was not a drag on competitiveness or growth and that only a small number of businesses object to the planning system. There was no hard data to show that the “planning system is a deterrent to international investment, and a barrier to ... enterprise”.

What came through time and again was a plea for greater speed in decision making, more certainty and extra resources for planning departments. The planning system is far from perfect, but to damn it without the evidence is foolhardy and damaging to our national prosperity and way of life. George Osborne and Eric Pickles should know better.

Paul Hackett, Director, The Smith Institute, London, UK

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