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Step 2: Influencing the issues, vision and objectives

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.

Identifying the issues - the role of the evidence base

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.

Top tip

The information forming the evidence base to the Local Plan will be published on your local planning authority's website. Phone up and ask if you can't find it.

What might be included in the evidence base for Local Plans?

Studies to identify local needs that the plan should provide for:

  • Evidence of population change, local health issues and so on.
  • Strategic Housing Market Assessment to identify how many homes are required of each tenure: open market housing and 'affordable housing' (e.g. shared ownership or social rented housing).
  • Evidence of existing business needs and changes in the local economy.
  • Research to identify the requirements of retail and leisure facilities, including the need for more land and floorspace.
  • Infrastructure requirements (to cover transport, water, energy, telecoms, utilities, health and social care, waste management and recycling, flood defences, education, leisure, community infrastructure).
  • Requirements for minerals, such as sand and gravel for the construction industry.
  • Where relevant, information on the future use of defence sites, or other large local industrial or important sites (e.g. where these may be vacant and so available for redevelopment).
  • Research to identify local needs for a range of open spaces including for sport and play, and locally derived standards.

Studies to identify existing and future characteristics in the local environment - these help the local planning authority to direct development to the most appropriate locations:

  • Water Cycle Study to establish water supply and treatment capacity and identify any problems or issues (and development implications).
  • Strategic Flood Risk Assessment to identify areas at risk of flooding.
  • Evidence about the historic environment, used to assess the significance of heritage assets.
  • Green Infrastructure Strategy to identify key networks of open space and where these should be protected or enhanced.
  • A Landscape Character Assessment to describe the characteristics of the local landscape and which may include guidelines for development.

Studies to identify available land for future development to inform the choice of sites (allocations) in the plan - these help ensure developments can be delivered on the ground over the next 15-20 years:

  • Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA) to identify where land for housing is available during the plan period.
  • Study to identify the existing and future supply of land to meet business requirements (alongside the SHLAA).

Commenting on the issues, vision and objectives

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.

Get involved: Attend a visioning exercise or local meeting. It's an excellent opportunity to find out more about the Local Plan, and contribute to the vision and objectives.

Get involved: Make your comments at an event or roadshow, or write a written response to a more formal consultation exercise. See the box below for possible questions which may be asked by the local planning authority, or which you should ask to guide your response.

Commenting on the issues, vision and objectives

Questions to ask yourself:

  • Have the right issues been identified? Is anything missing?
  • Do you agree with the vision? If not, how should it be changed? Does it clearly relate to the needs and aspirations of people and communities in the local area, and local issues identified?
  • Do you think the objectives will achieve the vision? If not, can you suggest changes?
  • Are you happy that all the right things have been considered? If not, what other things would you like to be considered in the vision and objectives?
  • Do the issues, vision and objectives flow from the Sustainable Community Strategy which sets out key local issues? If not, is it clear why not?
  • Does the evidence used to frame the objectives seem reasonable? Are the objectives responding to a local issue/need for which there is clear evidence?

NextStep 3: Comparing options for the spatial strategy

Further reading

Lanscape Character Assessment
Sustainable Community Strategies

Reference information

Local Development Documents