The Government Office for the South West advised councils to continue working on policy in line with the draft RSS, despite delaying publication to redo sustainability appraisals (Planning, 2 October, p1). But experts warned that core strategies based on the draft RSS may be open to legal challenges.
SJ Berwin partner Simon Ricketts said: "The policies that form the basis for core strategies have been called into question. Local authorities need to tread carefully. It will be difficult to bring forward core strategies until the RSS is finalised."
Mills & Reeve head of planning and environmental law David Brock agreed that core strategies that depend on the draft RSS will be susceptible to challenges. "It will mean going back a few stages," he said.
The delay to the RSS affects all local authorities in the region. It may also force the three councils that have adopted core strategies - Plymouth, South Hams and Mid Devon - to review policies to avoid challenges to their validity, said Ricketts.
Planning Officers Society South West convenor David Evans expressed concern that the government's review could result in the revision of large parts of the RSS.
"The process could take several years," Evans maintained. "This is a serious delay for local authorities, which are all working hard to put in place the new planning system."
- See Analysis, page 8.