Guidance

Local Plans

Provides clarity in production and deliverability of Local Plans.

This guide is being reviewed for consistency with the new National Planning Policy Framework.

Planning practice guidance will, where necessary, be updated in due course to reflect changes to the National Planning Policy Framework (the new version of which was published in July 2018). Where any hyperlinks direct users to the previous National Planning Policy Framework (2012), please disregard these. If you’d like an email alert when changes are made to planning guidance please subscribe.

Where plans are being prepared under the transitional arrangements set out in Annex 1 to the revised National Planning Policy Framework, the policies in the previous version of the framework published in 2012 will continue to apply, as will any previous guidance which has been superseded since the new framework was published in July 2018.

Local Plans: key issues

What is the role of a Local Plan?

This paragraph has moved to the guidance on Plan-making.

Paragraph: 001 Reference ID: 12-001-20180913

Revision date: 13 09 2018 See previous version

What should a Local Plan contain?

The Local Plan should make clear what is intended to happen in the area over the life of the plan, where and when this will occur and how it will be delivered. This can be done by setting out broad locations and specific allocations of land for different purposes; through designations showing areas where particular opportunities or considerations apply (such as protected habitats); and through criteria-based policies to be taken into account when considering development. A policies map must illustrate geographically the application of policies in a development plan. The policies map may be supported by such other information as the Local Planning Authority sees fit to best explain the spatial application of development plan policies.

Local Plans should be tailored to the needs of each area in terms of their strategy and the policies required. They should focus on the key issues that need to be addressed and be aspirational but realistic in what they propose. The Local Plan should aim to meet the objectively assessed development and infrastructure needs of the area, including unmet needs of neighbouring areas where this is consistent with policies in the National Planning Policy Framework as a whole. Local Plans should recognise the contribution that Neighbourhood Plans can make in planning to meet development and infrastructure needs.

Paragraph: 002 Reference ID: 12-002-20140306

Revision date: 06 03 2014

How should local planning authorities express the need for different types of housing in their Local Plan?

Local planning authorities should ensure that the policies in their Local Plan recognise the diverse types of housing needed in their area and, where appropriate, identify specific sites for all types of housing to meet their anticipated housing requirement. This could include sites for older people’s housing including accessible mainstream housing such as bungalows and step-free apartments, sheltered or extra care housing, retirement housing and residential care homes. Where local planning authorities do not consider it appropriate to allocate such sites, they should ensure that there are sufficiently robust criteria in place to set out when such homes will be permitted. This might be supplemented by setting appropriate targets for the number of these homes to be built.

Paragraph: 006 Reference ID: 12-006-20150320

Revision date: 20 03 2015 See previous version

How is a Local Plan produced?

This paragraph has moved to the guidance on Plan-making.

Paragraph: 003 Reference ID: 12-003-20180913

Revision date: 13 09 2018

What is the role of the examination?

Having received any representations on the publication version of the plan, the local planning authority should submit the Local Plan and any proposed changes it considers appropriate along with supporting documents to the Planning Inspectorate for examination on behalf of the Secretary of State.

The examination starts when the Local Plan is submitted to the Planning Inspectorate and concludes when a report to the local planning authority has been issued. During the examination a planning Inspector will assess whether the Local Plan has been prepared in line with the relevant legal requirements (including the duty to cooperate) and whether it meets the tests of ‘soundness’ contained in the National Planning Policy Framework.

The Inspector should work proactively with the local planning authority. Underpinning this is the expectation that:

  • issues not critical to the plan’s soundness or other legal requirements do not cause unnecessary delay to the examination of the plan
  • Inspectors should identify any fundamental concerns at the earliest possible stage in the examination and will seek to work with the local planning authority to clarify and address these
  • where these issues cannot be resolved within the examination timetable, the potential of suspending the examination should be fully considered, with the local planning authority having an opportunity to assess the scope and feasibility of any work needed to remedy these issues during a period of suspension, so that this can be fully considered by the Inspector
  • consideration should be given to the option of the local planning authority making a commitment to review the plan or particular policies in the plan within an agreed period, where this would enable the Inspector to conclude that the plan is sound and meets the other legal requirements.

If necessary, the Inspector may be asked by the local planning authority to recommend modifications to the Local Plan that would address any issues with soundness or procedural requirements that are identified during the examination. The Inspector can only recommend modifications if they are asked to do so by the local planning authority itself. If, in doing so, the Inspector identifies any fundamental issues with the plan, they may recommend that the plan should not be adopted by the local planning authority. The local planning authority will then need to consider whether to withdraw the plan and prepare a new document for submission. In this situation, any existing Local Plan policies will remain in force while a new plan is prepared, although some of those existing policies are likely to become increasingly out-of-date.

Paragraph: 004 Reference ID: 12-004-20160519

Revision date: 19 05 2016 See previous version

Local Plan development

Local Plan development

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Paragraph: 005 Reference ID: 12-005-20140306

Revision date: 06 03 2014

Preparing a Local Plan

Who is responsible for preparing a Local Plan?

Those local planning authorities responsible for ‘district matters’ should prepare and maintain an up-to-date Local Plan for their area: this includes district, London borough, metropolitan district, unitary, and National Park authorities.

Those local planning authorities with minerals and waste planning responsibilities should also produce plans to provide a framework for decisions involving these uses (this includes county councils in respect of any part of their area for which there is a district council, London borough, metropolitan district, unitary and National Park authorities). Local planning authorities can produce combined minerals and waste plans and, where relevant, may also prepare one Local Plan combining policies on minerals, waste and other planning matters.

The Marine Management Organisation is producing a series of marine plans to cover the English marine (off shore) area. Coastal local planning authorities will need to take these into account when preparing their Local Plans, insofar as they have implications for on-shore activities.

Paragraph: 006 Reference ID: 12-006-20140306

Revision date: 06 03 2014 See previous version

Can a local planning authority produce a joint Local Plan with another authority or authorities?

Section 28 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 enables 2 or more local planning authorities to agree to prepare a joint Local Plan, which can be an effective means of addressing cross-boundary issues, sharing specialist resources and reducing costs (eg through the formation of a joint planning unit).

The duty to cooperate requires local planning authorities and certain other public bodies to cooperate with each other in preparing a Local Plan, where there are matters that would have a significant impact on the areas of 2 or more authorities. A joint Local Plan is one means of achieving this and those preparing Joint Plans will wish to consider a joint evidence base and assessment of development needs. Less formal mechanisms can also be used. In particular, local planning authorities should consider the opportunities for aligning plan timetables and policies, as well as for sharing plan-making resources.

Paragraph: 007 Reference ID: 12-007-20140306

Revision date: 06 03 2014

How often should a Local Plan be reviewed?

This paragraph has moved to the guidance on Plan-making.

Paragraph: 008 Reference ID: 12-008-20180913

Revision date: 13 09 2018

What should the Local Development Scheme contain?

A Local Development Scheme is required under section 15 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 (as amended by the Localism Act 2011). This must specify (among other matters) the documents which, when prepared, will comprise the Local Plan for the area. It must be made available publically and kept up-to-date. It is important that local communities and interested parties can keep track of progress. Local planning authorities should publish their Local Development Scheme on their website.

Paragraph: 009 Reference ID: 12-009-20140306

Revision date: 06 03 2014

How detailed should a Local Plan be?

This paragraph has moved to the guidance on Plan-making.

Paragraph: 010 Reference ID: 12-010-20180913

Revision date: 13 09 2018

How should a Local Plan reflect the presumption in favour of sustainable development?

Paragraphs 14 and 15 of the National Planning Policy Framework indicates that Local Plans should be based upon and reflect the presumption in favour of sustainable development. This should be done by identifying and providing for objectively assessed needs and by indicating how the presumption will be applied locally.

Paragraph: 011 Reference ID: 12-011-20140306

Revision date: 06 03 2014

Should all the Local Plan policies be contained in one document?

This paragraph has moved to the guidance on Plan-making.

Paragraph: 012 Reference ID: 12-012-20180913

Revision date: 13 09 2018

What is the relationship between the Local Plan and Neighbourhood Plans?

Neighbourhood plans, when brought into force, become part of the statutory development plan for the area that they cover.

They can be developed before, after or in parallel with a Local Plan, but the law requires that they must be in general conformity with the strategic policies in the adopted Local Plan for the area (and any other strategic policies that form part of the statutory development plan where relevant, such as the London Plan). Neighbourhood plans are not tested against the policies in an emerging Local Plan although the reasoning and evidence informing the Local Plan process may be relevant to the consideration of the basic conditions against which a neighbourhood plan is tested.

There are requirements for a local planning authority to support neighbourhood planning. Further detail is provided in the neighbourhood planning guidance.

Where a neighbourhood plan is brought forward before an up-to-date Local Plan is in place the local planning authority should take a proactive and positive approach, working collaboratively with a qualifying body. This could include sharing evidence and seeking to resolve any issues to ensure the draft Neighbourhood plan has the greatest chance of success at independent examination.

Where a neighbourhood plan has been brought into force, the local planning authority should take it into account when preparing the Local Plan strategy and policies, and avoid duplicating the policies that are in the neighbourhood plan.

Paragraph: 013 Reference ID: 12-013-2070728

Revision date: 28 07 2017 See previous version

What evidence is needed to support the policies in a Local Plan?

This paragraph has moved to the guidance on Plan-making.

Paragraph: 014 Reference ID: 12-014-20180913

Revision date: 13 09 2018

Can local planning authorities in the process of plan making use the same approaches that have been accepted as sound in other Local Plans adopted since the introduction of the National Planning Policy Framework?

Local authorities can consider following approaches established in local plan examinations that have been undertaken since the National Planning Policy Framework was introduced, provided they are both relevant and appropriate.

Paragraph: 015 Reference ID: 12-015-20140306

Revision date: 06 03 2014

What roles do Sustainability Appraisal and Habitats Assessment play?

Every Local Plan must be informed and accompanied by a Sustainability Appraisal. This allows the potential environmental, economic and social impacts of the proposals to be systematically taken into account, and should play a key role throughout the plan-making process. The Sustainability Appraisal plays an important part in demonstrating that the Local Plan reflects sustainability objectives and has considered reasonable alternatives. The Sustainability Appraisal should incorporate a Strategic Environmental Assessment to meet the statutory requirement for certain plans and programmes to be subject to a process of ‘environmental assessment’.

The Local Plan may also require a Habitats Regulation Assessment, as set out in the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 (as amended) if it is considered likely to have significant effects on European habitats or species, located in the local planning authority’s area or in its vicinity.

Paragraph: 016 Reference ID: 12-016-20140306

Revision date: 06 03 2014

Who should be involved in preparing a Local Plan?

Local planning authorities will need to identify and engage at an early stage with all those that may be interested in the development or content of the Local Plan, including those groups who may be affected by its proposals but who do not play an active part in most consultations. Those communities contemplating or pursuing a neighbourhood plan will have a particular interest in the emerging strategy, which will provide the strategic framework for the neighbourhood plan policies. The local planning authority will also need to ensure that it works proactively with other authorities on strategic cross boundary issues in line with the duty to cooperate.

Regulation 18 of the Town and Country Planning (Local Planning) (England) Regulations 2012 sets out specific bodies or persons that a local planning authority must notify and invite representations from in developing its Local Plan. The local planning authority must take into account any representation made, and will need to set out how the main issues raised have been taken into account. It must also consult the Strategic Environmental Assessment consultation bodies on the information and level of detail to include in the sustainability appraisal report.

Section 18 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 requires local planning authorities to produce a Statement of Community Involvement, which should explain how they will engage local communities and other interested parties in producing their Local Plan and determining planning applications. The Statement of Community Involvement should be published on the local planning authority’s website.

Paragraph: 017 Reference ID: 12-017-20140306

Revision date: 06 03 2014

How can the local planning authority show that a Local Plan is capable of being delivered including provision for infrastructure?

This paragraph has moved to the guidance on Plan-making.

Paragraph: 018 Reference ID: 12-018-20180913

Revision date: 13 09 2018

What weight does an emerging Local Plan carry in decision-making?

The National Planning Policy Framework sets out that decision-takers may give weight to relevant policies in emerging plans according to their stage of preparation, the extent to which there are unresolved objections to relevant policies, and their degree of consistency with policies in the National Planning Policy Framework.

Paragraph: 019 Reference ID: 12-019-20140306

Revision date: 06 03 2014

Publication and examination of a Local Plan

What happens when a Local Plan is published?

The publication stage plan should be the document that the local authority considers ready for examination. This Plan must be published for representations by the local planning authority, together with other “proposed submission documents”, before it can be submitted to the Planning Inspectorate for examination. This provides a formal opportunity for the local community and other interests to consider the Local Plan, which the local planning authority would like to adopt. The specific publication requirements are set out at regulations 17, 19 and 35 (and 21) of the Town and Country Planning (Local Planning) (England) Regulations 2012.

Paragraph: 020 Reference ID: 12-020-20140306

Revision date: 06 03 2014

What should the local planning authority do when submitting a Local Plan for examination?

Having received any representations on the publication version of the plan, the local planning authority should submit the Local Plan and any proposed changes it considers appropriate along with supporting documents electronically to the Planning Inspectorate for examination on behalf of the Secretary of State. A Statement of Representations Procedure should be published alongside the submission version of the Local Plan.

The electronically submitted documents should include those that were made available at the publication stage (updated as necessary), including details of who was consulted when preparing the Local Plan (at regulation 18 stage) and how the main issues raised have been addressed. The local planning authority must also include details of the representations made following publication of the Local Plan and a summary of the main issues raised – see regulation 22 of the Town and Country Planning (Local Planning) (England) Regulations 2012 (amended January 2018). On an individual basis it may be necessary for local planning authorities to provide the Planning Inspectorate or Inspector both electronic and paper copies of some key documents on request.

Paragraph: 021 Reference ID: 12-021-20180201

Revision date: 01 02 2018 See previous version

What happens if the Inspector has significant concerns about a submitted Local Plan before the hearings begin?

The Inspector will make an initial assessment of the Local Plan once it has been submitted for examination. If the Inspector forms an early view that the submitted Plan may have serious shortcomings, the Inspector will raise this with the local planning authority at an early stage.

Where any major concerns are identified, in relation to the duty to cooperate, other procedural requirements or the soundness of the plan, the Inspector will write to the local planning authority setting these out. Where the issues cannot be addressed through correspondence the Inspector may arrange for an exploratory meeting to take place. The Inspector will give the local planning authority every opportunity to respond to any concerns and address key issues that may lead the Inspector to conclude that the plan is not sound or that a legal requirement has not been met.

Where the Inspector has significant concerns about the soundness of a submitted plan, the Inspector may consider that the examination cannot be completed without additional work being undertaken. This may require consideration of a suspension or partial suspension of the examination process to give the local planning authority time to undertake further work to address the issues raised. Inspectors should make every effort to engage fully with the local planning authority in meaningful discussions to determine the scope and feasibility of any additional work needed.

Paragraph: 022 Reference ID: 12-022-20160519

Revision date: 19 05 2016 See previous version

Who is involved and what is discussed in a hearing session?

Anyone who has made representations seeking to change a published Local Plan must, if they request, be given the opportunity of attending a hearing (section 20(6) of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004). The local planning authority will liaise with those who have asked to appear at the hearing to arrange attendance, including whether interested groups wish to nominate a representative to put forward their views.

The local planning authority is required to publicise details of the hearing sessions at least 6 weeks before they are scheduled to take place – under regulation 24 of the Town and Country Planning (Local Planning) (England) Regulations 2012.

The appointed Inspector may hold a pre-hearing meeting, the purpose of which is to clarify the critical issues to be considered at the hearing sessions, and to explain the procedures to be followed. Where no pre-hearing meeting is held these matters will be dealt with through a written note from the Inspector.

The subject of the hearings is determined by the Inspector based on the documents submitted by the local planning authority and the representations that have been made. During the hearings the Inspector may ask participants to provide additional information by set deadlines. Such requests will be circulated to all those attending by the Programme Officer (an independent official who provides administrative support to the Inspector).

Paragraph: 023 Reference ID: 12-023-20140306

Revision date: 06 03 2014

What if modifications are required to make a submitted Local Plan sound?

The Inspector can recommend ‘main modifications’ (changes that materially affect the policies) to make a submitted Local Plan sound and legally compliant only if asked to do so by the local planning authority under section 20(7C) of the 2004 Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act as amended). The council can also put forward ’additional modifications’ of its own to deal with more minor matters.

Where the changes recommended by the Inspector would be so extensive as to require a virtual re-writing of the Local Plan, the Inspector is likely to suggest that the local planning authority withdraws the plan. Exceptionally, under section 21(9)(a) of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004, the Secretary of State has the power to direct a local planning authority to withdraw its submitted plan.

Inspectors will require the local planning authority to consult upon all proposed main modifications. Depending on the scope of the modifications, further Sustainability Appraisal work may also be required. The Inspector’s report on the plan will only be issued once the local planning authority has consulted on the main modifications and the Inspector has had the opportunity to consider the representations on these.

Whether to advertise any ‘additional modifications’ is at the discretion of the local planning authority, but they may wish to do so at the same time as consulting on the main modifications.

Paragraph: 024 Reference ID: 12-024-20140306

Revision date: 06 03 2014

What happens if a Local Plan is found unsound?

Where the Inspector concludes that the duty to cooperate or other basic procedural requirements have not been met, or there are fundamental issues regarding the soundness of the plan that cannot be addressed through modifications, it will be recommended that the submitted plan is not adopted. In these circumstances the local planning authority will be unable to adopt the Local Plan and it should be withdrawn in accordance with regulation 27 of the Town and Country Planning (Local Planning) (England) Regulations 2012.

Speedy withdrawal of a plan in such circumstances provides certainty to the local community, applicants and other interests about the status of the planning framework in the area. Until a revised plan is brought forward to adoption, any existing Local Plan policies will remain in place.

Following withdrawal of a Local Plan from examination a Local Planning Authority should consider whether to republish under regulation 19 or reconsult under regulation 18 of the Town and Country Planning (Local Planning) (England) Regulations 2012 and what matters this republication or reconsultation should address.

Paragraph: 025 Reference ID: 12-025-20140306

Revision date: 06 03 2014

Local plans - adoption, monitoring and supplementary planning documents

What needs to be done to formally adopt a Local Plan?

Once the examination process is complete, adoption is the final stage of putting a Local Plan in place. This requires confirmation by a full meeting of the local planning authority (regulation 4(1) and (3) of the Local Authorities (Functions and Responsibilities) (England) Regulations 2000). On adopting a Local Plan, the local planning authority has to make publicly available a copy of the plan, an adoption statement and Sustainability Appraisal in line with regulations 26 and 35 of the Town and Country Planning (Local Planning) (England) Regulations 2012 .

While the local planning authority is not legally required to adopt its Local Plan following examination, it will have been through a significant process locally to engage communities and other interests in discussions about the future of the area, and it is to be expected that the authority will proceed quickly with adopting a plan that has been found sound.

Paragraph: 026 Reference ID: 12-026-20140306

Revision date: 06 03 2014

What is the role of the Authority Monitoring Report?

This paragraph has moved to the guidance on Plan-making.

Paragraph: 027 Reference ID: 12-027-20180913

Revision date: 13 09 2018 See previous version

Are supplementary planning documents needed?

Supplementary planning documents should be prepared only where necessary and in line with paragraph 153 of the National Planning Policy Framework.

They should build upon and provide more detailed advice or guidance on the policies in the Local Plan. They should not add unnecessarily to the financial burdens on development.

Regulations 11 to 16 of the Town and Country Planning (Local Planning) (England) Regulations 2012 set out the requirements for producing Supplementary Planning Documents.

In exceptional circumstances a Strategic Environmental Assessment may be required when producing a Supplementary Planning Document.

Paragraph: 028 Reference ID: 12-028-20140306

Revision date: 06 03 2014

Published 19 May 2016
Last updated 13 September 2018 + show all updates
  1. Moved paragraphs 001, 003, 008, 010, 012, 014, 018 and 027 to guidance on Plan-making.
  2. Updated paragraph 021.
  3. Updated paragraphs 001, 013 and 027.
  4. First published.