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Regional Spatial Strategies

Volume 692: debated on Thursday 24 May 2007

My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Meg Munn, has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government intends to publish on 29 May, for consultation, her proposed changes to the draft revision of the regional spatial strategy for the north-east.

The current regional spatial strategy, initially published as regional planning guidance (RPG1), became the regional spatial strategy in September 2004 with the enactment of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act. The regional spatial strategy is part of the statutory development plan and sets the framework for the production of local development frameworks and local transport plans.

A draft revision of the regional spatial strategy was submitted to the Government in June 2005 by the North East Assembly, and tested in an examination in public during March and April 2006. The report of the examination in public was published by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government in August 2006. The next step is to publish the Secretary of State’s proposed changes for consultation, prior to finalisation and publication of the regional spatial strategy by the Secretary of State. On final publication it will supersede the current regional spatial strategy.

In proposing these changes, the Secretary of State has considered the recommendations of the independent panel that conducted the examination in public and has also taken into account all the representations made on the draft revision and changes in government policy since the draft revision was submitted.

The regional spatial strategy will set a framework for the development of the north-east region to 2021. It supports a continuing level of economic growth and a broad strategy for the location of new development. It includes proposals for the location of the main areas of housing and employment growth, and for improvements to the quality and management of transport infrastructure. It has policies to address climate change, waste management and environmental issues.

Also being published are the reports of a sustainability appraisal of the proposed changes and a draft appropriate assessment of the regional spatial strategy revision, in accordance with the European habitats directive.

At the start of the consultation, I will be writing to the North East Assembly with the proposed changes. Because a number of these changes involve new proposals by the Government, or the gathering of new information from the North East Assembly and other stakeholders, we have set in progress a two-stage consultation. During an initial 10-week period, we are requesting the North East Assembly and other stakeholders to provide additional information to help to finalise policies. After ministerial consideration of this, and all other representations, a further set of proposed changes will be published, for a further consultation lasting eight weeks. Whilst this will extend the overall timetable, we believe that this is justified in order to give all stakeholders a full opportunity to consider all the relevant material and the Secretary of State’s final proposals. Following consideration of responses to the consultation, the Secretary of State expects to publish the finalised regional spatial strategy for the north-east early in 2008.

Copies of the relevant documents, together with the reports of the sustainability appraisal and appropriate assessment, will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses at the end of May and will be provided to all of the region’s MPs, MEPs and local authorities.