The beneficial aspects of Regional Spatial Strategies – including integrating environmental protection – must be retained and not swept away in any new planning framework, recommends a Commons Select Committee as it publishes its Second Report on Abolition of Regional Spatial Strategies.
The Woodland Trust welcomes the Communities and Local Government Committee’s call for the Government to include effective strategic planning arrangements in the Localism Bill. We also welcome its support for a larger-than-local planning approach across a number of authorities. We believe that effective environmental conservation, such as protecting ancient woodland and creating new native woodland, can be delivered locally but will benefit from planning at a larger-than-local or ‘landscape’ scale.
The Trust had previously submitted a written response to the enquiry, asking that the positive benefits of sub-national environmental planning and delivery should be carried forward into the new localism model. During the enquiry’s subsequent verbal evidence session, the use of woodland creation in the National Forest was given as an example of positive sub-national environmental planning, in order to illustrate our view that planning should not be devolved entirely to the local level. It’s encouraging to see that this is also quoted in the Second Report.
The Report calls for an improvement in the drafting of the Localism Bill, currently winding its way through Parliament, in order to provide a framework within which local authorities can cooperate with each other at a larger than local level. The Report summary concludes by highlighting the need: “…to bring forward a persuasive solution to the problem of those planning issues that cannot be decided at a purely local level”. The Trust will be monitoring the Bill’s progress with interest and supporting such improvements.
Justin Milward, Regional & Local Government Officer