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Step 5: Responding to the formal consultation on the publication version of the Local Plan

How to comment on the soundness of the Local Plan.

Once the local planning authority is happy with its Local Plan, it must publish it for a formal consultation period of at least six weeks, and make it available at the council offices, other appropriate locations and on its website. At this stage formal representations can be made in writing or electronically (e.g. via a website or email) (for a sample response, see the example letter here).

This is your last chance to have your say on the contents of the Local Plan. Even if you have made comments at an earlier stage, it will be worth looking again to see if your comments have been taken on board. If not, you may want to make your comments again as a formal representation. Importantly, all representations made at the publication stage are provided to the inspector who examines the plan (see Step 7).

Making representations on the publication stage Local Plan

At this stage you need to consider if the Local Plan meets the tests it will be examined on later in the process (Step 7). These tests relate to the way in which the plan has been prepared (legal issues) and its content. The content of the plan (its strategy, policies and proposals) is assessed against the 'tests of soundness', which are shown in the box below.

If you consider the plan to be 'unsound', you will be asked if you want to take part in the Examination - you can choose to appear or rely on your written representation. Also, be sure to ask if you want to be told when the Examination is to be held.

Commenting on the tests of soundness

Local Plans are required to meet the tests of soundness. This means they should be: positively prepared; justified; effective; and consistent with national policy.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • Is the plan positively prepared? Does the plan seek to meet the local needs for housing, land for businesses, community facilities, infrastructure (e.g. for transport, water, energy), education, shops, facilities for sport and leisure etc., which have been identified through the studies which make up the evidence base (see 'What might be included in the evidence base for Local Plans' under Step 2)?
  • Is it justified? Is the chosen strategy the best one compared with the alternatives considered? Is it clear how the Sustainability Appraisal has informed the plan (the Sustainability Appraisal report should set this out, and can help you to compare alternative options)? Has the plan been prepared with participation of the community? Is it clearly founded on evidence - backed up by facts?
  • Is it effective? Is there information on how the plan will be delivered during its life time (e.g. an 'implementation plan')? Does this say whether other delivery partners (e.g. strategic rail and highway authorities, the Environment Agency, water companies) are signed up to the plan? Is there an indication of when sites will come forward? Is it clear how the plan will be monitored? Is it flexible - able to deal with changing circumstances (e.g. what if a big site doesn't come forward for development when expected)?
  • Is it consistent with national policy as set out in the National Planning Policy Framework?

Get involved: It is likely that you will be able to comment online, through a special consultation portal - these are normally quick and easy to use. However, don't forget, you can always write in if you prefer. If in doubt, call to check with the local plans team or contact centre.

NextStep 6: The submission version of the Local Plan

Further reading

Step 2: Influencing the values, vision and objectives
Step 7: Taking part in the Examination
Sample letter or email objecting to the Publication Plan
Further information on Sustainability Appraisals

Reference information

Local development documents