11 November 2010
The Government has insisted that the High Court ruling that overrules the decision to unilaterally revoke Regional Spatial Strategies (RSSs) in England is not a serious setback for the administration’s planning reforms. Ministers have stated that introducing the Localism Bill to Parliament will sweep away the Regional Strategies.

Planning Minister, Bob Neill, has stated that “the Government remains firmly resolved to scrap this layer of confusing red tape. This was a commitment made in the Coalition Agreement and in the general election manifestos of both coalition Parties and we intend to deliver on it.”

Mr Justice Scales’ judgement overruling this decision supported the two grounds of challenge advanced by Cala Homes that the Secretary of State for Local Government, Eric Pickles, acted outside his statutory powers in bypassing the need for Parliamentary scrutiny of a fundamental change to the national planning system and did not consider the likely environmental effects of revoking Regional Strategies.

The Home Builders Federation (HBF) said the ruling would allow the Government to establish a roadmap for delivering its localism agenda. The judgment will allow the Government to put in place a clear transition to get from the old system to the proposed localism-based one.

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), Chief Planner, Steve Quartermain, has written to planning authorities explaining that the court ruling “considered that the powers set out in section 79 [6] of the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009 could not be used to revoke all Regional Strategies in their entirety”.

Mr Quartermain added, “The effect of this decision is to re-establish Regional Strategies as part of the Development Plan.” However, the Secretary of State wrote to local planning authorities and to the Planning Inspectorate on 27 May 2010 informing them of the Government’s intention to abolish Regional Strategies in the Localism Bill. The DCLG still expects Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) and the Planning Inspectorate to continue to refer to the letter of 27 May 2010 in any decisions they are currently taking.