The Localism Act 2011 has removed the formal regional tier of planning in England, and in its place introduced the Duty to Cooperate. The Duty to Cooperate requires local councils to work together when preparing their local policies and plans, to ensure that 'bigger than local' issues which cross local boundaries are dealt with properly for the planning system. For example, most Green Belts are spread across a number of local council areas. It is important for those different councils to work together to ensure that the Green Belt continues to be protected.
The Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 introduced statutory regional planning to England for the first time. As a result of the Act a regional planning body was responsible for preparing a Regional Spatial Strategy for each of the nine English regions. Local authorities were still responsible for making decisions on planning applications and for writing a local development plan, but these plans had to conform to the Regional Spatial Strategy as well as national policy.
The Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009 tried to simplify the regional process by combining the Regional Spatial Strategy and other regional strategies addressing issues such as economic growth and housing into a Single Regional Strategy.
Before these statutory regional policies were introduced in 2004 non-statutory Regional Planning Guidance provided the tier of planning policy between the local and national levels.
As part of its 'localism' agenda, the current Government has via the Localism Act 2011 abolished regional planning guidance and policy.
It is important to remember that the evidence collected by the regional planning bodies when preparing the regional planning policies could still be useful for helping to inform local policies, although the older the evidence the less relevant it is to current decisions.