The Government has suffered a further setback after the High Court ruled that, until further notice, local planning authorities should not take into account the Government’s intention to abolish the Regional Strategies.
This announcement follows a recent successful legal challenge by Cala Homes (South) Ltd, which resulted in the High Court ruling that the Communities and Local Government Secretary, Eric Pickles, had acted unlawfully when he announced the revocation of the Regional Strategies in England back in May (further details are here.)
Despite the High Court ruling, Mr Pickles and the Government’s chief planning officer wrote to all local planning authorities (LPAs), informing them of the Government’s intention to still abolish the Regional Strategies in the forthcoming Decentralisation and Localism Bill, and that LPAs should regard this as a material consideration when making planning decisions. Cala responded by making a further application to the High Court, challenging the lawfulness of this Government statement and asking for the letter to be withdrawn.
The application has now been expedited, pending a full legal hearing into the lawfulness of the Government’s statement, which will probably be sometime in early 2011. As a result, until the outcome of that hearing, no regard should be given to the Government’s intention to abolish the Regional Strategies.
The situation remains unclear: the Regional Strategies may have been reinstated, but they are still due to be scrapped (the Decentralisation and Localism Bill is expected to be issued in December.) Also, the current situation increases the possibility that there will be a number of legal challenges to planning decisions that were made on the basis of Mr Pickle’s advice that LPAs should act as though the Regional Strategies had already been scrapped (even though they hadn’t been.)
One thing is clear: confusion reigns.
UPDATE (Feb 2011): Cala Homes (South) Ltd has lost its High Court challenge against the Government’s claim that its intention to abolish the Regional Strategies should be considered by local planning authorities when ruling on planning applications. Click here for full details.