The town and country planning system shapes new building all over the country. It can protect the countryside from sprawl, and it gives everyone a chance to have their say.

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Quick guide

Why the Government is involved in what happens on your street. What are the different layers of the planning system, and how does it work?

National planning

Local planning policies and decisions have to take into account national planning guidance issued by the Government. The main guidance is included in the National Planning Policy Framework.

Sub-national planning

Local councils, and other bodies involved in writing planning policies and influencing decisions on planning applications, have to work together to make sure that development issues that cross council boundaries are dealt with properly.

Local planning

District councils and unitary councils are responsible for writing most local planning policies, and for making decisions on most planning applications. In particular they write the local plan, which forms a major part of the development plan for their area. Planning applications should conform to unless there are good reasons otherwise.

Neighbourhood planning

The Government has recently introduced a new tier of planning which sits below local planning. If they choose to, your community can now prepare a Neighbourhood Development Plan, which would sit alongside the local plan as part of the development plan for your area.

Planning applications

Most development needs planning permission, obtained by submitting a planning application. This application should try to conform to the policies in your local plan and any neighbourhood plans in force in your area. It should also take account of national planning guidance issued by the Government.

Planning for Major Infrastructure Projects

There is a separate planning process for 'Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects', for example new power stations or motorways. Applications for this type of development are submitted to the Planning Inspectorate, and a decision on whether they should go ahead is made by a Government Minister.

History of the planning system

Why do we have a planning system, and what are the different pieces of legislation, put in place over the last 100 years, that have resulted in the system that we have today.