13th January 2011


Last July, Eric pickles MP, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, wrote to Local Authorities confirming the coalition was scrapping Regional Spatial Strategies and the housing numbers laid down.

At Forum on 28 October 2010, it was noted that in May 2010, Cala house builders decided to challenge the Secretary of State regarding the proposed 2,000 new dwellings in Winchester, on the grounds the Secretary of State had made a decision without consultation. At that time is was felt if the High Court decided against the Secretary of State, the new Localism Bill (anticipated in November 2010) could give him the powers, i.e. it was therefore a short term setback.

Subsequent letters from the Chief Planning Officer, Steve Quartermain to local authorities were also challenged and with the Bill’s timespan, the whole situation became unclear, leaving the Green Belt vulnerable, depending only on interpretation of the guidelines by local planners and Government Planning Inspectors.

At Forum, Leader of the council, Cllr Peter Charon, agreed to write to Eric Pickles to try and clarify the situation:-

Green Belt Safe or Not Letter Councillor Peter Charon Green Belt Safe or Not Letter Councillor Eric Pickles MP

However, on 10th January, 2011, Mark Axford, Senior Planning Officer, Bournemouth Borough Council, confirmed the following:-

"Regional Spatial Strategies (RSS's) were made part of the development plan by the previous government in 2004. The South West RSS, which covers Bournemouth, has not been adopted and the Coalition Government has made it clear it intends to abolish the regional planning system. In July 2010 the Coalition Government announced it was revoking all regional strategies. However this action was challenged in the High Court by the developer Cala Homes and a decision in November 2010 found that the Secretary of State had acted unlawfully when he attempted to scrap RSS’s.

Following that decision the Coalition Government stated that the decision 'changed very little' and that it would be introducing the Localism Bill to Parliament that would abolish regional strategies. The Department for Communities and Local Government sent a letter to all local planning authorities advising them that they should still have regard to the secretary of state's intention to revoke RSS’s in any decisions they are currently taking. Cala Homes then issued a second claim seeking a declaration from the Court that the government's stated intention to revoke Regional Strategies is not a material consideration for the purposes of making planning decisions. As a result a further legal hearing is to be held into the lawfulness of the secretary of state's statement and the DCLG advice.

On the 13th December 2010 the Localism Bill was introduced to Parliament with the Bill proposing reforms to the planning system including the abolition of RSS's. On the 17th January the Bill will be subject to its second reading in Parliament, the government anticipate the Bill will gain Royal Assent in late 2011 early 2012. This leaves some local planning authorities and developers in limbo as RSS s are now material considerations in the determination of planning applications. It must be stressed however that locally the stage reached in preparing the SW RSS means that it holds no weight in determining planning applications."