The role of the evidence base for Local Plans and how to comment effectively.
At this stage the local planning authority is not required legally to consult the public, but they are strongly encouraged to do so - and in our experience almost all do.
A key task for the local planning authority is to identify the key issues the Local Plan should respond to. What changes are expected over the next 15-20 years in your area? These may include a changing economic picture, changes to the structure or size of communities, and changes to the local environment. The Local Plan should address relevant issues set out in the Sustainable Community Strategy.
To understand how much change and what type of change is likely to occur the local planning authority will need to carry out or commission studies and build up an evidence base. Evidence will also be needed to help direct development to the most appropriate locations, whether for business, environmental or social reasons.
The local planning authority may consult on this stage of the plan through a variety of ways including an event or roadshow, with a stall at a local fair, festival or cultural event, or through a citizens' panel or other targeted methods. They may also consult more widely, such as through a leaflet to all homes, or articles in the press or in council magazines.
The local planning authority may hold a 'visioning exercise' to help set the vision and objectives for the Local Plan. People from organisations which represent a broad range of local people are likely to be invited to come along and take part in a workshop. Organisations invited to the event may include: local councils, groups representing particular ethnic or faith groups, the local primary care trust, the police, the education authority, local business groups, local economic partnerships, local wildlife trusts, the local business improvement district, key local employers, representatives of the farming community and landowners, residents' associations, and county/district/ local councillors. The aim is to reach a wide cross section of the community. The event may also be used to test that all the key local issues have been identified.
If your local planning authority doesn't plan to hold this sort of event, you could ask your parish or town council to set up a local meeting or informal workshop where the planning staff can be invited to talk to your group and hear the community's views.