Last edited 03 Nov 2020

Regional spatial strategies RSS

Regional strategies, or ‘Regional Spatial Strategies’ (RSS) were introduced to replace county-level structure plans by the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004. They bridged the gap between local planning policy and national planning policy.

Written evidence from the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) in 2004 suggested that, ‘The rationale for a regional planning tier was the need to coordinate some planning issues, such as infrastructure and strategic growth, above district and county level and to set targets for growth including housing delivery.’

Paragraph 1.3 of Planning Policy Statement 11 suggested that Regional Spatial Strategies should take into account: identification of the scale and distribution of provision for new housing; priorities for the environment, such as countryside and biodiversity protection; and transport, infrastructure, economic development, agriculture, minerals extraction and waste treatment and disposal.

However, it was considered that they were too ‘top down’ and that local communities had relatively little influence them; they were bureaucratic and undemocratic, disempowering local people and making them hostile to proposed developments.

In 2010, the Secretary of State wrote to local authorities making clear that regional strategies would be abolished through the introduction of the Localism Act, suggesting that public bodies should work together on planning issues. However, a decision of the European Court of Justice in March 2012 ruled that the Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive applied to the abolition of regional strategies. As a result, updated environmental reports had to be prepared and consultations carried out for each region.

In 2012, the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) made clear that, ‘Regional strategies remain part of the development plan until they are abolished by Order using powers taken in the Localism Act. It is the government’s clear policy intention to revoke the regional strategies outside of London, subject to the outcome of the environmental assessments that are currently being undertaken.’

Regional strategies were progressively phased out, and on 27 March 2013, it was announced that the final 3 regional strategies for the West Midlands, the South West and the North West were to be abolished. Ref New step for localism as every regional plan has gone.

NB In Scotland, the amended Planning Act introduced in 2019, established a requirement to prepare and adopt a regional spatial strategy. This is a long-term spatial strategy for the strategic development of an area which identifies needs and outcomes to which strategic development will contribute as well as priorities for delivery and the proposed locations for strategic development.

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