Guidance

Local Plans: the examination process

The Local Plan examination process and the role the Planning Inspectorate plays.

Applies to England

The Planning Inspectorate has published guidance on site visits, hearings, inquiries and events in connection with Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Introduction

Local plans are prepared by the Local Planning Authority (LPA), usually the Council or the national park authority for the area.

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) states that the planning system should be genuinely plan-led. Succinct and up-to-date plans should provide a positive vision for the future of each area and a framework for addressing housing needs and other economic, social and environmental priorities.

Examining local plans

Once the Local Planning Authority has finished preparing and consulting on a local plan it must be submitted to the Secretary of State who will appoint an Inspector to carry out an independent examination. This process is dealt with by the Planning Inspectorate.

The examination will assess whether the plan has been prepared in accordance with legal and procedural requirements and if it is sound. The four tests of soundness are set out in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

The Inspector will consider the evidence provided by the LPA to support the plan and any representations which have been put forward by local people and other interested parties. In most cases the examination will include hearing sessions which are held in public.

At the end of the examination the Inspector will send a report to the LPA recommending whether or not they can adopt the plan. In most cases the report will recommend some changes that are necessary to allow the plan to be adopted. These are known as ‘main modifications’.

In carrying out the examination, the Inspector will be conscious of the benefits of having a robust and up to date plan adopted as quickly as possible and will apply the principles of openness, fairness and impartiality.

The LPA is responsible for paying for the cost of the examining Inspector. The fees are set out in the Town and Country Planning (Costs of Independent Examinations) (Standard Daily Amount) (England) Regulations 2006.

Advice about local plan examinations

The Planning Inspectorate will, if requested by a local planning authority, hold an advisory meeting with the authority before they submit their local plan for examination. The aim is to provide advice on the examination so that the authority can prepare effectively for it.

Detailed practical guidance on the procedural aspects of local plan examinations can be found in the Procedure Guide for Local Plan Examinations. The Guide includes links to the relevant legislation and applies to local plan examinations, including joint local plans prepared by more than one local planning authority. The appointed Inspector will work with the LPA to determine the format for the hearing sessions and guidance will be provided for all participants. Local authorities wanting more information about how the hearing stages will take place should contact the local plans team at plans.admin@planninginspectorate.gov.uk. The link at the top of this page will take you to the Planning Inspectorate’s latest advice on Coronavirus (COVID-19). Different procedures apply for the examination of a Mayor’s Spatial Development Strategy.

The Government’s planning policies relating to local plans can be found in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and further information is provided in Planning Practice Guidance.

The Planning Inspectorate also produces a model representation form for local plans which is available for use by LPAs at the publication (Regulation 19) stage of consultation. The Planning Inspectorate takes its data protection responsibilities for the information you provide us with very seriously. To find out more about how we use and manage your personal data, please go to our privacy notice. We have also produced advice for LPAs about designing the local plan examination webpage.

A copy of the standard Service Level Agreement for the examination is available on request by contacting plans.admin@planninginspectorate.gov.uk. This includes a data sharing agreement.

The role of the Secretary of State in local plans

The Secretary of State has a number of legal powers relating to plan making and the examination. The Secretary of State wrote to the Chief Executive of the Planning Inspectorate in connection with these powers on 18 June 2019.

In accordance with this letter the Planning Inspectorate will share all post-hearing advice letters, letters containing interim findings and any other letters and any letters which raise soundness or significant legal compliance issues, as well as fact-check reports, with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government on a for-information basis, at least 48 hours before they are sent to the LPA.

The fact check report is the version of the Inspector’s final report which is sent to the LPA to check for factual errors or inconsistencies. The final report is issued after the fact-check process has been completed

The Secretary of State’s letter refers to a letter from The Rt Hon Greg Clark in 2015.

Programme Officers

When a plan is submitted the LPA must appoint a Programme Officer to assist in the organisation and administration of the examination. The Programme Officer works for the Inspector and provides a channel for all communications between the Inspector and the LPA and other participants.

The Planning Inspectorate provides Programme Officer Training Notes and runs a training course for new and experienced Programme Officers from time to time depending on demand. The next Programme Officer training course has not yet been scheduled but we expect a date to be set around April 2022. This will likely be a virtual event hosted on Microsoft Teams. Spaces on the course will be limited so please refer to this page for future updates. If you are interested in attending the course or you need further advice on how to find a Programme Officer please email plans.admin@planninginspectorate.gov.uk.

Monitoring local plan progress

The Planning Inspectorate maintains a list of the overall position for each LPA. This is updated as examinations are completed. The date of publication and adoption is based on information provided by the LPA. The date of publication is when the LPA carries out its final public consultation on the plan before it is submitted for examination, under Regulation 19 of the Town and Country Planning (Local Planning) (England) Regulations 2012. These lists are updated every month.

As agreed with the Secretary of State, the Planning Inspectorate is publishing a report setting out the plans which are expected to be submitted for examination in the following 6-month period. This has been put on hold because of coronavirus (COVID-19).

If you have a question about the timing of the publication, submission or adoption of a local plan, please contact the relevant LPA directly.

Keeping the Planning Inspectorate informed

LPAs should keep the Planning Inspectorate informed about when their plans are to be published, submitted and adopted. If the Planning Inspectorate is not kept informed of the likely date for submission this could cause a delay in appointing an Inspector and in the early stages of the examination.

LPAs should send their updates to plans.admin@planninginspectorate.gov.uk

Community Infrastructure Levy

Information about Community Infrastructure Levy examinations.

Examining Spatial Development Strategies

Information about Spatial Development Strategies

Complaints

If you have a complaint about our work in examining local plans, community infrastructure plans or spatial development strategies please see our complaints procedure.

Published 1 January 2012
Last updated 20 December 2021 + show all updates
  1. Advice on holding an advisory meeting added

  2. New information for programme officer training

  3. Advice added for local authorities on who to contact for more information about how the hearing stages take place.

  4. Advice about local plan examinations section updated.

  5. The next Programme Officer training course has now been confirmed for Wednesday 22 September.

  6. Plans containing strategic policies updated

  7. Programme Officer training course has now been confirmed for Wednesday 07 July

  8. Programme Officer training course update

  9. Link updated to the Planning Inspectorate new Privacy Policy

  10. Plans containing strategic policies (ODS) and Plans containing non-strategic policies (ODS) updated

  11. Updated Plans Privacy Statement, LPA Strategic Plan Progress spreadsheet updated and LPA Other Plans Progress spreadsheet updated

  12. Plans containing strategic and Plans containing non-strategic policies updated

  13. The next Programme Officer training course will be held on Tuesday 26 January, 2021. This will be a virtual event and will run from 09:30 to 13:00 approx. Spaces on this course are limited and early booking is advised

  14. Plans Privacy Statement updated and wording updated at: Please note that some aspects of the Procedure Guide pre-dates measure to limit the spread of coronavirus (Covid-19).

  15. Plans containing strategic policies documents updated

  16. Link added to the advice for LPAs about designing the local plan examination webpage.

  17. Plans containing strategic policies and Plans containing non-strategic policies documents updated.

  18. Updated versions of 'Plans containing strategic policies' published

  19. Plans containing strategic policies and Plans containing non-strategic policies documents updated

  20. Plans containing strategic policies and Plans containing non-strategic policies documents updated.

  21. Section on complaints added to the page

  22. Plans containing strategic policies and Plans containing non-strategic policies documents updated

  23. Please note that the Procedure Guide pre-dates measures to limit the spread of coronavirus (Covid-19) and it may not currently be possible to follow some of the advice it contains.

  24. Plans containing strategic policies and Plans containing non-strategic policies documents updated.

  25. The next Programme Officer training course, which was due to take place on Wednesday, 29 April 2020, has been cancelled because of coronavirus (COVID-19), this will be rearranged.

  26. The Planning Inspectorate has published guidance on site visits, hearings, inquiries and events in connection with Coronavirus (COVID-19)

  27. The next Programme Officer training course will be held on Wednesday, 29 April 2020.

  28. link to Examining Spatial Development Strategies added to the page

  29. Plans containing strategic policies and Plans containing non-strategic policies documents updated.

  30. Plans containing strategic policies and Plans containing non-strategic policies have been updated

  31. Expected plan submissions for the next 6 months updated

  32. Plans containing strategic policies and Plans containing non-strategic policies documents updated

  33. The next Programme Officer training course will be held on Wednesday, 15 January 2020.

  34. Added a link to the Inspectorate's news item on Approach to casework during the pre-election period

  35. Plans containing strategic policies and Plans containing non-strategic policies documents updated

  36. Local plan progress lists updated

  37. The Programme Officers training course that was due to be held on the Thursday 26 September has been cancelled.

  38. Local plan progress lists updated

  39. A report listing the local plans expected to be submitted within the next 6 months added

  40. Plans containing strategic policies and Plans containing non-strategic policies documents updated.

  41. Local Plan progress lists updated

  42. Page rewritten, documents updated.

  43. Date for next training course updated, it's being held on 26 September 2019.

  44. Core strategy progress and Other plans documents updated.

  45. Core strategy progress and Other plan documents updated

  46. Core strategy progress and Other plan documents updated

  47. Other plans and strategic plans documents updated

  48. Other plan and strategic plan documents updated

  49. Update to the date for the training course for local authority Programme Officers

  50. December Core strategy progress & Other plans documents added

  51. Core strategy progress and Other plans documents Updated

  52. Training course dates updated

  53. Core strategy progress and Other plans documents updated with October data

  54. Plan progress and strategic plan progress lists updated

  55. Plan progress and lpa strategic plan progress updated

  56. Additional date added for the Programme Officer training.

  57. Core strategy progress & Other plans documents updated

  58. Core strategy progress and Other plans documents updated

  59. Course date updated

  60. Core strategy progress and Other plans documents updated

  61. Plans Privacy Statement added in line with GDPR.

  62. Core strategy progress and Other plans Updated

  63. Core strategy progress and Other plans documents updated

  64. Date changed for the one-day training course for local authority Programme Officers.

  65. Core strategy progress & Other plans documents updated.

  66. Updated the date of the next Programme Officer course

  67. Core strategy progress & Other plans docs updated

  68. Core strategy progress and Other plans documents updated

  69. Core strategy progress and Other plans documents updated

  70. Plan documents updated.

  71. Core strategy progress & other plans documents updated

  72. Core strategy progress & other plans documents updated.

  73. July data added

  74. Core strategy progress and Other plans documents updated

  75. Strategic and other plan progress documents updated.

  76. Strategic plan and other plans documents updated

  77. Date added for the one-day training course for local authority Programme Officers.

  78. Core strategy and other plans documents updated

  79. 'What if you disagree' section added.

  80. Plans documents updated

  81. Strategic plan and other plan attached documents updated

  82. Core strategy and plans documents updated.

  83. Date updated for training course

  84. Core strategy progress and other plans chart updated

  85. Core strategy progress and other plan chart updated

  86. Strategic plan and LPA plan updated

  87. Core strategy progress and other plan tables updated

  88. Inserted date to next course - 09 November 2016

  89. Core strategy progress and other plan charts updated

  90. Procedural guidance document updated to take account of recent refinements in practice and the update to the Planning Practice Guidance published on 19 May 2016

  91. LPA strategic plan and LPA other plan progress documentS updated.

  92. Link to guidance removed as guide was incorrect

  93. Other plan and strategic plan Documents updated with April figures

  94. Local plan (other plans) and Strategic plan documents updated.

  95. Updated core strategy process and other plans process

  96. New document: Programme Officer Training Notes added

  97. Updated progress plans

  98. New version of the booklet Examining Local Plans Procedural Practice.

  99. First published.