News story

More powers to local communities as South East regional planning abolished

Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles announces another major milestone in the transfer of power to local communities.

Local communities across the South East of England are to receive more control over development when their area’s regional strategy becomes the 3rd to be formally abolished, Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles announced today (14 February 2013).

The top-down approach of regional strategies from the last administration imposed centrally set building targets on communities and coincided with the lowest peace-time levels of housebuilding since the 1920s. The sprawling South East region stretches from Oxfordshire to Kent, encompassing almost 9 million people.

Ministers believe that planning and housebuilding works best when it is locally led and people have more control in shaping and deciding on development in the places they live. Once the Order is shortly laid in Parliament and comes into force, councils and local people across the former government office region for the South East will once again have this control.

The abolition of this regional strategy reinforces the importance of the Local Plan produced with the involvement of local communities, as the keystone of the planning system. It is this approach that will help deliver the homes, jobs and infrastructure we need.

The coalition government is determined to protect and safeguard our natural and cultural heritage and has decided not to revoke the policy on the Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area or the structure plan policy covering the former Upper Heyford RAF base.

Eric Pickles said:

“The flawed top-down targets of regional planning built nothing but resentment, and threatened the green belt in many local authorities.

“The abolition of the South East Plan follows through from the abolition of the unelected quangos of the South East England Regional Assembly and South East England Development Agency.”

“This government is delivering on its pledges to decentralise power from Whitehall and its quangos down to local people.”

Further information

The government made clear its commitment to return decision-making on housing and planning to local councils and to end the era of centrally imposed targets that build resentment to development. We are introducing powerful incentives to ensure communities benefit from development.

The date to lay the Order in Parliament is expected to be set after Parliamentary recess and will determine the exact date the revocation takes effect.

The Localism Act 2011 legislated to provide powers to abolish the last administration’s regional strategies. European Union law requires strategic environmental assessments to be undertaken.

You can download the written ministerial statement (PDF 59KB) on the revocation of the South East regional strategy from the Parliament website.

The ‘Strategic environmental assessment on revoking the South East regional strategy: post-adoption statement’ will be available from the consultation page once the Order is laid.

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