The government will test the environmental impact of scrapping regional planning targets in order to avoid further legal challenges to the decision.
Planning minister Bob Neill said on Tuesday that the government was taking the step on a ‘voluntary basis’, and intended to produce an environmental report for each region. It will then begin a consultation to identify issues for local authorities.
It is believed this will delay the revocation of each individual strategy, which will now happen after the assessment process is complete. Royal Assent for the Localism Bill was to due to happen in July and this is now unlikely to be before the end of the year. No firm date has been given.
The decision to abolish regional spatial strategies was announced in July last year by communities secretary Eric Pickles. Developer Cala Homes challenged the decision and a High Court judge found it to be unlawful in November 2010, but Mr Pickles ignored this and decided to continue with the move to end them.
Mr Neill said: ‘I believe the abolition of these top-down targets will be beneficial for the environment by removing the central plans which potentially undermine green belt protection in 30 towns and cities across the country.’
Gerald Kells, regional campaigns coordinator for the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said the government was probably proposing the assessments to avoid further legal wrangles.
‘We hope it will give some guidance on strategic environmental issues but we’re concerned about the current [planning policy] hiatus and we don’t want delays, because that can be used to get housing built on appeal rather than where it should be.’
For the original article and comments see the Inside Housing website.