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    Appeal Court rules on regional strategy status challenge

    Planning authorities and inspectors can take the Coalition Government’s intention to abolish Regional Strategies into consideration in deciding planning applications and appeals, the Court of Appeal has confirmed.

    For a second time the courts have ruled in the Government’s favour following an appeal by CALA Homes that the Government’s intention to abolish the strategies could not lawfully be taken into account in any way in relation to planning applications and appeals, at least until such time as the Localism Bill becomes law.

    CALA Homes lost an earlier challenge in the High Court and now has lost its subsequent appeal to the Court of Appeal.

    The judgment means that the proposed abolition of the strategies can be regarded as a ‘material consideration’ by local planning authorities and inspectors when deciding planning applications and appeals.

    As part of the ruling the Appeal Court provided guidance on the approach planning authorities and planning inspectors should take in judging the potential significance of that factor. This latest judgment will not affect decisions already made on planning applications.

    The Government announced its intention to abolish Regional Strategies via the Localism Bill last year. The Bill has now completed its Commons stage.

    Planning Minister Bob Neill said: “This judgment confirms that decision makers can take into account the Government’s intention to sweep away Regional Strategies when deciding planning applications and appeals. I welcome the helpful guidance given in the judgment on the approach which local planning authorities and inspectors should follow in such decisions. Under the previous Government’s top-down targets we saw the lowest peacetime house building rates since 1924.

    “Increasing the rate of house building is a top priority for the Government and is backed by incentives to kick-start building. House building has started to rise again and we recently paid the first cash payments under the New Homes Bonus.”

    The Localism Bill will introduce new incentives for communities that support local development, including the New Homes Bonus and a reformed Community Infrastructure Levy which both provide cash for communities to invest in local infrastructure and facilities.

    Lord Justice Sullivan, one of the three Appeal Court judges, commented: “any decision-maker who does think it appropriate to give some weight to the Government’s proposal when determining an application or an appeal would be well-advised to give very clear and cogent reasons for reaching that conclusion, but that does not mean that there could be no case whatsoever in which any decision-maker might be able to give such reasons.”

    Planning Portal 03.06.2011