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Local Plans - getting involved

Local Plans set out the big decisions on planning for the future...

The key stages of Local Plan preparation and when to get involved are shown in the following flow chart:

local-plans

When to get involved

The simple answer is the earlier the better! You will then be able to feed into the 'vision' of the plan - what you want your area to be like in the future, and the plan's 'objectives' (i.e. what the plan aims to achieve). The overall strategy of the plan is also decided early on - this identifies what and how much development is needed to meet local needs, and broadly where it should take place - it is known as the 'spatial strategy'.

Top tip

Have a look at your local planning authority's website and find the planning policy section. Look for 'Planning' on the home page, then 'Planning policy' or 'Local Plan'. Have a look at the latest consultations. If you have problems finding what you want, phone and talk to reception or the contact centre: staff there will be able to talk you through the process. Taking a little time to get familiar with the website will help you find key documents quickly, and save you time when it comes to making your comments.

How to get involved

Making effective comments

When you want to comment on the Local Plan it is important to make your comments in a way that can easily be taken on board by the local planning authority. This means keeping to the key planning issues - these relate to the development and use of land, and any environmental, social and economic issues which have land use implications.

Planning issues include:

  • The needs of businesses for land and premises.
  • The need for housing locally.
  • The need to provide essential infrastructure to support other development - to enable access and other connections, generate energy, deal with waste etc.
  • The need for infrastructure to support communities, for example schools, parks, doctors' surgeries, village halls and other community facilities.
  • Noise and other impacts on the 'enjoyment' of land (such as parks) and buildings such as homes and work places - this is often called 'amenity'. Impacts may also include dust, other air quality issues, vibration, wind and excessive shade (in areas where there are lots of tall buildings).
  • Traffic and transport issues such as congestion, or the need for a new bus or railway station.
  • Flood risk, water quality, water treatment.
  • Impacts on nature conservation sites, important or sensitive landscapes, the open countryside, historic buildings, archaeological sites and other places which are valued by people.

Non-planning issues include:

  • Private property matters (including house prices, covenants and party wall issues).
  • The characteristics of a particular landowner or business proprietor.
  • Which brand of shop can open in your town.
  • Personal grievances.
  • The right to a (private) view.

This list is not exhaustive!

Don't forget, the role of the planning system is to focus on land use issues and to act in the public interest.

The next thing to bear in mind is to back up your comments by referring to real evidence. This will give your comments more weight and substance. We provide more guidance on how to do this, and what evidence you might refer to in Step 2 (Influencing the Issues, Vision and Objectives).

It is easy to object to something you don't like. But what the local planning authority would like to know is what you would like to see happen instead to meet a particular need. So if you object to something in the Local Plan, be positive and make a suggestion to improve the Local Plan which would overcome your objection. In this way, you can really influence the final plan - your suggestion may be taken on board and your idea or words used in the final text.

Top tip

It is tempting to respond to a consultation exercise only when you don't like something. But it is equally important to let the local planning authority know when you do support a policy or proposal in the Local Plan. This will help the local planning authority to understand the range of people's views. It will also mean that the views of those people who object to something are not given precedence over those who are in favour, but decided not to respond.

Finally, consider if a joint consultation response would be helpful to you. If you can agree a response with other local groups, or agree to respond along the same lines, this is likely to be more effective - the local planning authority will see that a large number of people or groups share the same view.

Top tip

Don't simply bin that consultation leaflet! Local planning authorities often use these to contact all homes and businesses in the area at key stages of the plan-making process. They are a quick way to find out what is being consulted on, what the issues are, and how to make a comment. Leaflets are normally sent to libraries too.

NextStep 1: Maximise Your Influence

Further reading

Lost in Local Planning?
Landscape character assessments