Local planning

England has a plan-led system of development. This means that every local planning authority in England has to prepare a Local Plan. This plan includes all of the local planning policies for that area, and any planning applications have to be decided in line with it unless material considerations indicate otherwise.

The current system of Local Plans was mostly put in place by the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004. This act referred to Local Plans as 'Local Development Frameworks', and you may still occasionally hear them called this. The current Government prefers to refer to 'Local Plans' however, and so that is the terminology used on Planning Help.

What do Local Plans contain?

Under the system introduced in 2004, new style Local Plans replaced the old development plans, known as either Local Plans or Unitary Development Plans. It is important to note that Local Plans prepared since the 2004 Act are very different to those prepared before it. While the pre-2004 documents consisted of one document containing all the local planning policies, along with a proposals map, the 2004 Act introduced the concept of a 'folder of documents'. The current Government is keen to keep the system simple by minimising the number of documents that local planning authority's prepare, but there will still be a number of different documents that make up the Local Plan. By law the Local Plan has to contain a:

  • Core Strategy
  • Site Allocations Development Plan Document
  • Proposals Map

If their need can be justified, the Local Plan could also contain:

  • Area Action Plans
  • Development Management Development Plan Document
  • other Development Plan Documents that provide policies on key issues in a locality, that need to be given full statutory weight in the planning process
  • Supplementary Planning Documents that provide non-statutory guidance on important local issues, for example design.

The Local Plan, along with any Neighbourhood Development Plans, provides the basis for determining planning applications and future development in your area. The different documents in the Local Plan should include policies and proposals about land use and spatial planning in your area. If your area does not have an up to date Local Plan in place, the NPPF states that when deciding planning applications a 'presumption in favour of sustainable development' should apply.

Getting involved

Local authorities should engage local people in preparing their Local Plans, and to produce policies that really reflect the views and aspirations of the community.

If you want to make sure that the countryside in your area is protected, that towns and cities are regenerated, or land used the way you think it should be, then you must not miss this crucial opportunity to involve yourself in local planning policy.

Local Plans are critical for the future of our towns, countryside and quality of life since they will set out the principle of where and how development can take place.

It is vital that we all campaign to get policies and proposals adopted in our area that intelligently address issues such as:

  • The countryside
  • The environment
  • Policies and proposals about conservation
  • Energy
  • Natural resources, such as water
  • Nature
  • Landscapes
  • Housing
  • Design and heritage
  • Transport
  • Quarries and much more.

More information about Local Plans, what they contain and how to get involved in influencing them, can be found here.