Every local community in England will have more control over local planning and development as the final 3 top-down Regional Strategies are to be revoked, Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles announced today (27 March 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 abolition of these unpopular and counter-productive Regional Strategies reinforces the importance of councils’ Local Plans 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.
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. Orders will be laid in Parliament after recess to revoke the remaining strategies following which the Coalition Agreement pledge will be finally delivered, after delays following the European Court of Justice ruling.
Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles said:
“This government is committed to localism and greater local decision-making in planning. The flawed top-down targets of regional planning, centrally imposing development upon communities, built nothing but resentment. They will hang over communities no more.
“We have secured the abolition of every single strategy. We are committed to decentralising as much power as possible and these important and popular planning reforms will bring a significant shift in power to local people.”
Notes to editors
- The Coalition programme for government set out that:
“We will rapidly abolish Regional Spatial Strategies and return decision-making powers on housing and planning to local councils, including giving councils new powers to stop ‘garden grabbing’.”
The government made clear its commitment to return decision-making on housing and planning to local councils and has introduced powerful incentives to ensure communities benefit from development.
The Localism Act 2011 legislated to provide powers to abolish the regional strategies. A decision of the European Court of Justice in March 2012 ruled that the Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive applies despite UK arguments to the contrary. So we have updated environmental reports and re-consulted on them for each region.
The reasons for the decision to revoke the Regional Strategies for the North West, West Midlands and South West, along with the measures for monitoring any effects of revocation, will be set out in Post Adoption Statements, which will be placed in the Library of the House and published on the website once the Orders are laid.
The Strategic Environmental Assessment process is set out in an EU Directive (Directive 2001/42/EC). In March 2012, the European Court of Justice issued a significant ruling on the interpretation and application of the Directive (Inter-Environnement Bruxelles ASBL & Others v Government of the Brussels-Capital Region). This is discussed in Baroness Hanham’s Written Ministerial Statement of 25 July 2012.
The Orders will also revoke remaining county-level structure plan policies in these areas. In recognition of the importance that the government places on the Green Belt the Order revoking the South West regional strategy will not revoke the safeguards around the North East Somerset Green Belt known as ‘Policy S6’ of the Somerset and Exmoor National Park Joint Structure Plan. The government is determined to protect this country’s cherished natural and cultural heritage.