Are we seeing a return to regional planning? The government is currently pushing forward with Local Government reorganisations; strengthening the Duty-to Cooperate requirement for local authorities; and we are 12 months into the tenures of the six Metro Mayors elected following devolution of powers to the regions.
Localism was at the heart of the 2010 election, from this, Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles decided to replace Whitehall’s ‘top-down’ planning structure with his very own ‘bottom up’ approach. Mr Pickles decided to scrap Regional Planning Policy which dealt with the efficient placement of land-use activities, infrastructure, and settlement growth across a larger area of land. The new and improved localised strategy allowed residents to set out an overall plan for development in their area stating their own housing needs and preferred locations where development would be directed.
Role forward a few years and new Housing Minster, Kit Malthouse, confirmed across several speeches at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham, that it is amongst his key missions to encourage local planning authorities to work together on a regional or county scale once again.
Citing the Oxfordshire housing deal as a beacon of example, the Housing Minister warned that authorities should not be operating as ‘little islands’ and offered financial incentives to increase efforts to significantly boost housing delivery.
Speaking last week Mr Malthouse said; “Our general thrust is for groups of local authorities to come together to form a kind of strategic partnership and vision for a particular region or area, fundamentally so that we can fund the infrastructure that’s related to it.
At a Town and Country Planning Association earlier be proclaimed; “We are trying to encourage as much as possible for two-tier areas to get together and produce a kind of strategic plan.
“That’s what’s happening in Oxfordshire, where we’ve given the whole county the planning freedoms and flexibilities and some time to produce a strategic plan which will include the infrastructure that they want to build.”
Could it be that a regional approach is a sensible way to ensure coordinated delivery and to greatly improve the delivery of housing growth? Or simply allow local councillors the opportunity to lay any and all blame for housing targets at the Government’s door?