Today I have laid an updated set of regulations that set out how local councils should prepare and consult on their local plans. The Town and Country Planning (Local Planning) (England) Regulations 2012 will come into force on 6 April. Not only do these regulations consolidate previous changes, but they also simplify the language we use in plan making, for example “local plan” has replaced the term “core strategy”.
The Government are proposing to abolish top-down regional strategies, subject to the voluntary environmental assessment under way. To promote local joint working between public authorities, the Localism Act 2011 has introduced a legal duty to co-operate between local authorities, and the powers to specify in the local planning regulations which bodies are bound by the duty. The powers ensure that bodies bound by the duty have regard to the views of local enterprise partnerships in relation to strategic planning matters.
The Government have started the process of setting up local nature partnerships, announced in last year’s natural environment White Paper. The purpose of local nature partnerships is to protect and improve the natural environment in an area, and the benefits derived from it. The Government believe that they will make a valuable contribution to strategic planning in their areas. As soon as possible after local nature partnerships have been designated in summer 2012, we will amend the local planning regulations to require bodies bound by the duty to also have regard to the views of local nature partnerships on strategic planning matters.
These regulations are a further step in our package of reforms to strengthen localism by putting councils back in control of the preparation and examination of their local plans. Taken together, these measures support a plan-led system, and encourage local councils to have up-to-date local plans in place.