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Contemporary context

The UK Parliament remains keen to influence how communities develop through town and country planning legislation, though planning is devolved to the Scotland Parliament, National Assembly for Wales and Northern Ireland Assembly.

The Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act, passed by Parliament in 2004, abolished county-level structure plans and introduced statutory regional planning in the form of Regional Spatial Strategies (RSS). The RSS set a framework for all local development frameworks in each English region. Each strategy determined how much development there should be, how it would be spread around the region and how it would be delivered. Environment, infrastructure and housing were all covered by the RSS.

In 2008 Parliament also considered and passed the Planning Act, which reformed existing town and country planning legislation, including the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 and the earlier Town and Country Planning Act 1990. Several provisions in the former Act reflected the changing priorities faced by planning authorities. The RSS, for example, were updated to include policies designed to tackle climate change, while the sustainable development duty in the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 was altered to include a specific reference to the desirability of achieving good design.

The Coalition Government made some major reforms to the planning system, with the introduction of the Localism Act 2011, which abolished RSS, and the National Planning Policy Framework. Changes were also made in the Growth and Infrastructure Act 2013, and in the Infrastructure Act 2015, aimed at speeding up the planning system.

In the Queen's speech on 27 May 2015 two bills were announced by the new Government which would make changes to planning law: a Housing Bill which would introduce a statutory register for brownfield land and make changes to neighbourhood planning law; and an Energy Bill, which would remove certain onshore wind farms from the nationally significant development consent process. On 13 May 2016, the Housing and Planning Act 2016 and the Energy Act 2016 gained Royal Assent.

Page last updated September 2016.


Related information

Current parliamentary business on the topic of housing and planning