Without doubt, so far, the most contentious aspect of the Localism Bill has been the intention to abolish regional planning – Regional Spatial Strategies (RSS).

RSS are currently part of the statutory development plan and must be taken in to account when preparing local plans.

RSS is particularly important in setting district housing targets, and identifying where major development, for example for employment should be focused.

Government originally tried to revoke RSS shortly after being elected, only to be challenged in the courts. In November 2010, this decision was challenged and RSS reinstated. Local Plans must still take account of RSS.

However, at the end of May, Government were successful in the Court of Appeal in establishing that the intention to abolish RSS was a material consideration when considering planning applications and appeals.

Where does this leave us

On Local Plans

Until the Localism Bill gains royal assent RSS must be taken in to account when preparing local plans. Even then RSS will not be abolished until the strategic environmental assessment (SEA) of that abolition has been completed.

Once abolished, the future of strategic planning is less clear. Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) will have some non-statutory role in saying what they think employment, transport and housing priorities are for their area. Local councils will also have a duty to co-operate. How this will work in practice is yet to be seen, and may result in different approaches being adopted in different areas.

Clearly, there will be scope for local areas to turn their back on parts of RSS e.g. housing numbers.

On planning applications and appeals

The intention to abolish can be taken in to account as a material consideration for planning applications and appeals. The Courts see this as affecting larger applications, and gaining greater weight over time. The implications could be particularly felt by housing end employment allocations identified in RSS and intended to be developed over the long-term.

The consensus is that abolition of RSS has not been straight forward and it will have considerable impacts on planning application and appeal decisions. If you are concerned how abolition of RSS may affect you telephone 01282 872570 or simply email your questions to Mick or Claire.


©Kirkwells Town Planners and Sustainable Development Consultants based at the Lancashire Digital Technology Centre in Burnley www.kirkwells.co.uk
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