HC Deb 07 September 2004 vol 424 cc1180-1W
Mr. Andrew Turner

To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what rules govern whether a unitary council's area can be treated as a sub-region for the purpose of regional planning arrangements. [187716]

Keith Hill

There is no rule. It is up to each RPB (Regional Planning Body) to decide how best to take sub-regional matters forward and to define the subregions in the draft RSS (Regional Spatial Strategies) revision. What might be an effective sub-regional approach in one region may not necessarily suit the circumstances and geography of another.

The definition of need for a sub-regional approach should be based on an assessment of the functional relationship between settlements, such as journey-to-work patterns, or land uses within the area affected by the same strategic planning issue or issues which may well differ from administrative boundaries. This could include consideration, for example, of how the strategic planning system can assist not only in creating and sustaining the economic competitiveness of a city or a cluster of towns but in spreading the benefits of a prosperous city to the wider region (the concept of a `city-region').

The sub-regional definition should be based on a clearly recognisable 'strategic policy deficit' which cannot be adequately addressed by general RSS policies or by LDDs (Local Development Documents) on their own. In some parts of a region, LDDs may be capable of being prepared within the context of the generic policies of a RSS. In some cases this may need to be on a joint LDD basis and the RPB may need to encourage the relevant LPAs (Local Planning Authorities) to produce a joint LDD in order that the RSS can be effectively implemented. However, in many cases there will be sub-regional strategies issues which cannot be tackled through a joint plan or where the LDDs require a more detailed strategic policy context which cannot be provided by generic policies in a RSS. Therefore, it will be common to have sub-regional policies as part of the RSS revision.

Where the RPB decides that it is appropriate to have RSS policies which are specific to a particular part or parts of the region, section 5(5) of the Act requires a section 4 (4) authority or authorities to be first to make detailed proposals, unless it is agreed that the RPB itself or a district council should do so instead. Providing these section 4(4) authorities agree, there is no reason why an RPB should not continue to take the lead, as it has in the past, in preparing detailed proposals on a partnership basis with these authorities and others.

Planning Policy Statement 11: Regional Spatial Strategies (PPS11) will be published on 7 September 2004. Until now it was only available as a draft.