After the recent judgment of the High Court in the Cala Homes case, the answer must be ‘yes’ although the extent to which local planning authorities (“LPAs”) should have regard to Regional Spatial Strategies (“RSSs”) in deciding planning applications remains doubtful.
Cala Homes sought Judicial Review of the decision of the Secretary of State (Eric Pickles) in July 2010 to revoke all RSSs. The Court found that the statutory power used to do so was unlawfully invoked in that Parliament had never intended that it be used to abolish entirely the regional tier of planning and the policy basis for it provided by the RSSs.
The revocation of RSSs has therefore been reversed by this judgment and the Government is likely to have to wait until new legislation under its localism agenda is enacted before RSSs are abolished once and for all. The Localism Bill is due to first appear before Parliament before Christmas and this Court decision is likely to hasten the resolve of the Government to achieve this.
However, this reversal had been anticipated and the Secretary of State, having decided not to appeal the decision, has wasted no time in writing to all LPAs (as he did immediately he took office in May) reminding them that the Government’s intention to formally abolish RSSs is a material consideration to the determination of any planning application and therefore little regard should be had to the policies or housing targets set out therein.
The Government says that planning policies and housing numbers should be determined locally and that it will introduce incentives to LPAs to increase housing supply through the planning system. The Localism Bill will set out how this is to be achieved.
In the meantime and given the current state of limbo, the Planning Inspectorate (“PINS”) has issued detailed guidance to its Inspectors on how to deal with their appeal and development plan casework in respect of RSSs. The PINS guidance makes clear that RSSs still exist (as a result of the Cala Homes decision) but suggests that they should now be given less weight. However, it does not go so far as to consider to what extent the continuing intention to abolish RSSs is a material consideration or how much weight should be given to it. That thorny issue may yet be one for the Courts.
Sarah-Jane Williams is a solicitor dealing with all aspects of planning work including development plan representations, permitted development, change of use, s.106 agreements, certificates of lawfulness and planning appeals.
For further information please do get in touch with Sarah-Jane Williams by phoning 01872 265100 or email email@example.com