National Planning Policy Framework

3. Plan-making

Paragraphs 15 to 37

15. 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; a framework for addressing housing needs and other economic, social and environmental priorities; and a platform for local people to shape their surroundings.

16. Plans should:

(a) be prepared with the objective of contributing to the achievement of sustainable development1;

(b) be prepared positively, in a way that is aspirational but deliverable;

(c) be shaped by early, proportionate and effective engagement between plan-makers and communities, local organisations, businesses, infrastructure providers and operators and statutory consultees;

(d) contain policies that are clearly written and unambiguous, so it is evident how a decision maker should react to development proposals;

(e) be accessible through the use of digital tools to assist public involvement and policy presentation; and

(f) serve a clear purpose, avoiding unnecessary duplication of policies that apply to a particular area (including policies in this Framework, where relevant).

The plan-making framework

17. The development plan must include strategic policies to address each local planning authority’s priorities for the development and use of land in its area2. These strategic policies can be produced in different ways, depending on the issues and opportunities facing each area. They can be contained in:

(a) joint or individual local plans, produced by authorities working together or independently (and which may also contain non-strategic policies); and/or

(b) a spatial development strategy produced by an elected Mayor or combined authority, where plan-making powers have been conferred

18. Policies to address non-strategic matters should be included in local plans that contain both strategic and non-strategic policies, and/or in local or neighbourhood plans that contain just non-strategic policies.

19. The development plan for an area comprises the combination of strategic and non-strategic policies which are in force at a particular time.

Strategic policies

20. Strategic policies should set out an overall strategy for the pattern, scale and quality of development, and make sufficient provision3 for:

(a) housing (including affordable housing), employment, retail, leisure and other commercial development;

(b) infrastructure for transport, telecommunications, security, waste management, water supply, wastewater, flood risk and coastal change management, and the provision of minerals and energy (including heat);

(c) community facilities (such as health, education and cultural infrastructure); and

(d) conservation and enhancement of the natural, built and historic environment, including landscapes and green infrastructure, and planning measures to address climate change mitigation and adaptation.

21. Plans should make explicit which policies are strategic policies4. These should be limited to those necessary to address the strategic priorities of the area (and any relevant cross-boundary issues), to provide a clear starting point for any non-strategic policies that are needed. Strategic policies should not extend to detailed matters that are more appropriately dealt with through neighbourhood plans or other non-strategic policies.

22. Strategic policies should look ahead over a minimum 15 year period from adoption5, to anticipate and respond to long-term requirements and opportunities, such as those arising from major improvements in infrastructure.

23. Broad locations for development should be indicated on a key diagram, and land-use designations and allocations identified on a policies map. Strategic policies should provide a clear strategy for bringing sufficient land forward, and at a sufficient rate, to address objectively assessed needs over the plan period, in line with the presumption in favour of sustainable development. This should include planning for and allocating sufficient sites to deliver the strategic priorities of the area (except insofar as these needs can be demonstrated to be met more appropriately through other mechanisms, such as brownfield registers or non-strategic policies)6.

Maintaining effective cooperation

24. Local planning authorities and county councils (in 2-tier areas) are under a duty to cooperate with each other, and with other prescribed bodies, on strategic matters that cross administrative boundaries.

25. Strategic policy-making authorities should collaborate to identify the relevant strategic matters which they need to address in their plans. They should also engage with their local communities and relevant bodies including Local Enterprise Partnerships, Local Nature Partnerships, the Marine Management Organisation, county councils, infrastructure providers, elected Mayors and combined authorities (in cases where Mayors or combined authorities do not have plan-making powers).

26. Effective and on-going joint working between strategic policy-making authorities and relevant bodies is integral to the production of a positively prepared and justified strategy. In particular, joint working should help to determine where additional infrastructure is necessary, and whether development needs that cannot be met wholly within a particular plan area could be met elsewhere.

27. In order to demonstrate effective and on-going joint working, strategic policy-making authorities should prepare and maintain one or more statements of common ground, documenting the cross-boundary matters being addressed and progress in cooperating to address these. These should be produced using the approach set out in national planning guidance, and be made publicly available throughout the plan-making process to provide transparency.

Non-strategic policies

28. Non-strategic policies should be used by local planning authorities and communities to set out more detailed policies for specific areas, neighbourhoods or types of development. This can include allocating sites, the provision of infrastructure and community facilities at a local level, establishing design principles, conserving and enhancing the natural and historic environment and setting out other development management policies.

29. Neighbourhood planning gives communities the power to develop a shared vision for their area. Neighbourhood plans can shape, direct and help to deliver sustainable development, by influencing local planning decisions as part of the statutory development plan. Neighbourhood plans should not promote less development than set out in the strategic policies for the area, or undermine those strategic policies7.

30. Once a neighbourhood plan has been brought into force, the policies it contains take precedence over existing non-strategic policies in a local plan covering the neighbourhood area, where they are in conflict; unless they are superseded by strategic or non-strategic policies that are adopted subsequently.

Preparing and reviewing plans

31. The preparation and review of all policies should be underpinned by relevant and up-to-date evidence. This should be adequate and proportionate, focused tightly on supporting and justifying the policies concerned, and take into account relevant market signals.

32. Local plans and spatial development strategies should be informed throughout their preparation by a sustainability appraisal that meets the relevant legal requirements8. This should demonstrate how the plan has addressed relevant economic, social and environmental objectives (including opportunities for net gains). Significant adverse impacts on these objectives should be avoided and, wherever possible, alternative options which reduce or eliminate such impacts should be pursued. Where significant adverse impacts are unavoidable, suitable mitigation measures should be proposed (or, where this is not possible, compensatory measures should be considered).

33. Policies in local plans and spatial development strategies should be reviewed to assess whether they need updating at least once every 5 years, and should then be updated as necessary9. Reviews should be completed no later than 5 years from the adoption date of a plan, and should take into account changing circumstances affecting the area, or any relevant changes in national policy. Relevant strategic policies will need updating at least once every 5 years if their applicable local housing need figure has changed significantly; and they are likely to require earlier review if local housing need is expected to change significantly in the near future.

Development contributions

34. Plans should set out the contributions expected from development. This should include setting out the levels and types of affordable housing provision required, along with other infrastructure (such as that needed for education, health, transport, flood and water management, green and digital infrastructure). Such policies should not undermine the deliverability of the plan.

Examining plans

35. Local plans and spatial development strategies are examined to assess whether they have been prepared in accordance with legal and procedural requirements, and whether they are sound. Plans are ‘sound’ if they are:

(a) Positively prepared – providing a strategy which, as a minimum, seeks to meet the area’s objectively assessed needs10; and is informed by agreements with other authorities, so that unmet need from neighbouring areas is accommodated where it is practical to do so and is consistent with achieving sustainable development;

(b) Justified – an appropriate strategy, taking into account the reasonable alternatives, and based on proportionate evidence;

(c) Effective – deliverable over the plan period, and based on effective joint working on cross-boundary strategic matters that have been dealt with rather than deferred, as evidenced by the statement of common ground; and

(d) Consistent with national policy – enabling the delivery of sustainable development in accordance with the policies in this Framework.

36. These tests of soundness will be applied to non-strategic policies11 in a proportionate way, taking into account the extent to which they are consistent with relevant strategic policies for the area.

37. Neighbourhood plans must meet certain ‘basic conditions’ and other legal requirements12 before they can come into force. These are tested through an independent examination before the neighbourhood plan may proceed to referendum.

Footnotes

  1. This is a legal requirement of local planning authorities exercising their plan-making functions (section 39(2) of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004). 

  2. Section 19(1B-1E) of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 

  3. In line with the presumption in favour of sustainable development. 

  4. Where a single local plan is prepared the non-strategic policies should be clearly distinguished from the strategic policies. 

  5. Except in relation to town centre development, as set out in chapter 7

  6. For spatial development strategies, allocations, land use designations and a policies map are needed only where the power to make allocations has been conferred. 

  7. Neighbourhood plans must be in general conformity with the strategic policies contained in any development plan that covers their area. 

  8. The reference to relevant legal requirements refers to Strategic Environmental Assessment. Neighbourhood plans may require Strategic Environmental Assessment, but only where there are potentially significant environmental effects. 

  9. Reviews at least every 5 years are a legal requirement for all local plans (Regulation 10A of the Town and Country Planning (Local Planning) (England) Regulations 2012)

  10. Where this relates to housing, such needs should be assessed using a clear and justified method, as set out in paragraph 60 of this Framework. 

  11. Where these are contained in a local plan. 

  12. As set out in paragraph 8 of Schedule 4B to the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (as amended).