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A structure plan was an old-style development plan required by United Kingdom planning law between 1968 and 2004. Structure plans set out strategic planning policies and formed the basis for detailed policies in local plans. Although no longer prepared, these plans continue to operate in many areas following the commencement of the new development plan system introduced by the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004, due to transitional provisions.
Structure plans were first introduced by the 1968 Town and Country Planning Act, as strategic level development plans, prepared either by a county council or by local authorities working jointly together. They consisted of a broad framework of policies looking forward up to 20 years ahead, supported by a "key diagram" showing land use, transport and environmental proposals diagrammatically (that is, not on a locationally specific map base). Local plans, prepared by district rather than county councils, were required to accord with the overall strategy set out in the structure plan.
Structure plans were increasingly criticised in the 1980s and 1990s for the length of time taken in their preparation and adoption, their often abstract nature, and for imposing an unnecessary level of policy above the level of the local district council. This became increasingly apparent with the establishment of regional planning conferences (later Regional Assemblies) and the development of Regional Planning Guidance after the mid-1980s.
Structure plans in the UK were abolished as part of the new development plan system introduced following the 2004 legislation, and have been replaced by Regional Spatial Strategies and by Local Development Documents, particularly Core Strategies. They remain in force until new RSS has been adopted.
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