Planning and development – guidance

Local Plans

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


The Planning Inspectorate supports the Government’s aim for every area in England to have an adopted local plan. A local plan sets out local planning policies and identifies how land is used, determining what will be built where. Adopted local plans provide the framework for development across England.

Local peoples’ views are vital in shaping a local plan, helping determine how their community develops. Development should be consistent with the national planning policy framework.

The Minister of State for Housing and Planning made a written statement about local plans in July 2015. Alongside this, the Secretary of State wrote to the Chief Executive of the Planning Inspectorate setting out the Government’s position on examining local plans.

Role of planning inspectors

Planning inspectors play an important role in examining local plans impartially and publicly. They look at all local plan documents that local authorities in England prepare for an examination. They decide whether a plan is sound or not.

The examination is the last stage of the process for producing a local plan. The process should have fully involved everyone who has an interest in the plan and they should have had the opportunity to comment. The Planning Inspectorate has published a short film on YouTube about the role of planning inspectors in the local plans process.

Preparing and submitting local plans

Local plans must be positively prepared, justified, effective and consistent with national policy in accordance with section 20 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 (as amended) and the national planning policy framework (NPPF). The NPPF gives guidance to local authorities in drawing up their local plans.

The Examining Development Plan Documents: Procedural Guidance published in December 2013 has been updated to take account of more recent refinements in practice and the update to the Planning Practice Guidance published on 19 May 2016. The Procedural Practice in the Examination of Local Plans sets out what happens once a local plan has been submitted for examination, including information about estimated timelines and delivery of the inspector’s final report. It also includes advice for local planning authorities about how to carry out a fast track review of specific policies within their local plan. Such policies include, for example, car parking standards or provision of open space and recreation; larger issues such as housing or employment strategies are not covered by the fast track procedure. The fast track procedure takes around six months

The Planning Inspectorate provides a one-day training course for local authority Programme Officers. The course is run twice a year (subject to demand), and the next one will be 09 November 2016. Please email for further information about the course. The attached Programme Officer Training Notes (MS Word Document, 3.91MB) outlines the course contents.


Revised fees for local plan examinations were introduced on 3 January 2007. Fees are intended to recover from local authorities the cost of providing a planning inspector to conduct the examination of the local plan. Fees for local plan examinations were set under the Town and Country Planning (Costs of Independent Examinations) (Standard Daily Amount) Regulations 2006 (SI 2006/3227), following consultation with planning bodies (the Local Government Association, the Planning Officers’ Society, the Royal Town Planning Institute and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors).

Keeping the Planning Inspectorate updated

Local authorities are required to keep the Planning Inspectorate updated about when their plans are published and adopted. This is set out in paragraph 5 of the Letter to Chief Planning Officers - Preparation and Monitoring of Local Plans 30 March 2011 (PDF, 41.1KB, 2 pages) . This also applies to the publication of Community Infrastructure Levy Charging Schedules.

Updates should be sent by email to: or by post to:

The Planning Inspectorate Plans Team
3G Hawk Wing
Temple Quay House
2 The Square

Monitoring local plans

The Planning Inspectorate maintains a list of how local planning authorities across England are progressing their local plans:

The information is updated as examinations of plans are completed and local authorities inform the Planning Inspectorate that they have subsequently been published and adopted.

The Examining Development Plan Documents: Learning from Experience document (PDF, 1.55MB, 14 pages) highlights experience up to August 2009. The Examining Development Plan Documents: Soundness Guidance document has been withdrawn following publication of the NPPF.