The Local Plan examination process and the role the Planning Inspectorate plays.
Applies to England
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. The Inspector will determine the appropriate format for those sessions, which could be in-person/physical (‘real’), ‘virtual’ video or telephone conference, blended events or a ‘blended’ mix of formats for each or different sessions (i.e. a mix of in-person and virtual).
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 email@example.com. Different procedures apply for the examination of a Mayor’s Spatial Development Strategy.
There is also a short guide aimed particularly at those taking part in an examination for the first time.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
When a plan is submitted the LPA is responsible for appointing the Programme Officer and for the processing of any personal data during the examination. The role of the Programme Officer is to provide administrative support to the examination. The Programme Officer 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 is scheduled for Tuesday 18th April 2023. If regulations allow this will be a physical event held at Temple Quay House, Bristol, or alternately this will be held virtually 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 email@example.com.
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 can be found on our monitoring local plans page
A list of Local Plan Examination hearing dates the Planning Inspectorate is holding over the next few months can be found on our monitoring local plans page NOTE: this update is only for ‘first hearing sessions’ not subsequent ones.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Community Infrastructure Levy
Information about Community Infrastructure Levy examinations.
Examining Spatial Development Strategies
Information about Spatial Development Strategies
If you have a complaint about our work in examining local plans, community infrastructure plans or spatial development strategies please see our complaints procedure.