News story

Government moves ahead with plans to abolish regional plans and protect the green belt

Pressure to build on the Green Belt is being removed with the revocation of Regional Plans according to environmental assessments published …

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Pressure to build on the Green Belt is being removed with the revocation of Regional Plans according to environmental assessments published today.

The Coalition Government is committed, through the Localism Bill now passing through Parliament, to abolishing Regional Plans, which imposed housing targets on local communities and put pressure on councils to cut the Green Belt in 30 towns across the country.

The process of returning decision-making powers on housing and planning to local communities moved up a gear with the publication today of environmental assessments of the revocation of each Plan for consultation. The reports make it clear that revoking Regional Plans will mean there is less top down pressure on communities to review Green Belt.

Subject to Royal Assent of the Bill and the environmental assessments, the final abolition of each individual Regional Plan will be commenced after the assessment process has been completed.

Local Government Minister Bob Neill said:

This Government is putting an end to unpopular, undemocratic Regional Plans, which imposed development on communities and threatened the countryside.

These reports make it clear that revoking the Plans will protect communities and the environment from top down pressure to build on the Green Belt.  
“We are putting planning powers into the hands of local people to take charge of local housing challenges in a way that makes sense for them while protecting the local countryside and green spaces they value.”

Notes to editors

1. Regional Spatial Strategies were introduced in 2004 and provided binding planning frameworks including nationally set housing targets at a regional level. They were drawn up by regional planning bodies and councils had to prepare their “Local Development Documents”, based on the Regional Spatial Strategy.

2. The Coalition Government is revoking these Regional Plans through the Localism Bill. We have undertaken voluntary assessment of the likely significant environmental effects of the revocation of the eight existing Regional Plans. The assessments have been carried out in line with the procedure set out in the Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive.

3. Eight Environmental Reports are being published on the Department’s website today 20 October 2011, on which we are seeking comments from organisations and individuals. The period of consultation will be 12 weeks ending on 20 January 2012. Subject to the assessment process we expect the orders revoking the existing Regional Plans to take effect next Spring. The reports are available here:

  1. The abolition of Regional Plans provides a clear signal of the importance attached to the development and application of local plans. Local plans drawn up with the help of the community will become the basis for local planning decisions, and future reform will make it easier for local councils to agree and amend local plans with their local community, in a way that maximises the involvement of neighbourhoods. The Localism Bill will also introduce a duty to cooperate on local planning authorities, county councils and public bodies which will require them to engage constructively, actively and on an ongoing basis in the planning process.

5. Towns and areas that were planning Green Belt reviews because of Whitehall-imposed targets will now be able to make their own decisions where new development is built. They include: Bath, Bedworth, Bournemouth, Bristol, Bromsgrove, Broxbourne, Cheltenham, Chertsey, Coventry, Gloucester, Guildford, Harlow, Hatfield, Hemel Hempstead, Leeds, Lichfield, Maidenhead, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Nottingham, Nuneaton, Oxford, Redditch, Redhill, Reigate, Rushcliffe, Stevenage, Solihull, Tunbridge Wells, Welwyn, and Woking and Worcester and in West Yorkshire beyond Leeds.

6. The Government is introducing a stronger locally-led planning system, where local communities decide where development goes and receive benefits from that development through the New Homes Bonus and Community Infrastructure Levy. Communities will also have the power to prevent encroachment on the Green Belt and will benefit from a new special protection for green spaces under the Localism Bill.

7. The draft National Planning Policy Framework also safeguards valued, national protection for our countryside including Green Belt, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Sites of Special Scientific Interest to protect them from encroachment.


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Published 20 October 2011