National Planning Policy Framework


Paragraphs 186 to 207

186. Local planning authorities should approach decision-taking in a positive way to foster the delivery of sustainable development. The relationship between decision-taking and plan-making should be seamless, translating plans into high quality development on the ground.

187. Local planning authorities should look for solutions rather than problems, and decision-takers at every level should seek to approve applications for sustainable development where possible. Local planning authorities should work proactively with applicants to secure developments that improve the economic, social and environmental conditions of the area.

Pre-application engagement and front loading

188. Early engagement has significant potential to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the planning application system for all parties. Good quality pre-application discussion enables better coordination between public and private resources and improved outcomes for the community.

Related guidance: Before submitting an application

189. Local planning authorities have a key role to play in encouraging other parties to take maximum advantage of the pre-application stage. They cannot require that a developer engages with them before submitting a planning application, but they should encourage take-up of any pre-application services they do offer. They should also, where they think this would be beneficial, encourage any applicants who are not already required to do so by law to engage with the local community before submitting their applications.

190. The more issues that can be resolved at pre-application stage, the greater the benefits. For their role in the planning system to be effective and positive, statutory planning consultees will need to take the same early, pro-active approach, and provide advice in a timely manner throughout the development process. This assists local planning authorities in issuing timely decisions, helping to ensure that applicants do not experience unnecessary delays and costs.

191. The participation of other consenting bodies in pre-application discussions should enable early consideration of all the fundamental issues relating to whether a particular development will be acceptable in principle, even where other consents relating to how a development is built or operated are needed at a later stage. Wherever possible, parallel processing of other consents should be encouraged to help speed up the process and resolve any issues as early as possible.

192. The right information is crucial to good decision-taking, particularly where formal assessments are required (such as Environmental Impact Assessment, Habitats Regulations Assessment and Flood Risk Assessment). To avoid delay, applicants should discuss what information is needed with the local planning authority and expert bodies as early as possible.

Related guidance:

193. Local planning authorities should publish a list of their information requirements for applications, which should be proportionate to the nature and scale of development proposals and reviewed on a frequent basis. Local planning authorities should only request supporting information that is relevant, necessary and material to the application in question.

Related guidance: Making an application

194. Local planning authorities should consult the appropriate bodies when planning, or determining applications, for development around major hazards.

Related guidance: Hazardous substances

195. Applicants and local planning authorities should consider the potential of entering into planning performance agreements, where this might achieve a faster and more effective application process.

Determining applications

196. The planning system is plan-led. Planning law requires that applications for planning permission must be determined in accordance with the development plan1, unless material considerations indicate otherwise2. This Framework is a material consideration in planning decisions.

197. In assessing and determining development proposals, local planning authorities should apply the presumption in favour of sustainable development.

Related guidance: Determining a planning application

198. Where a Neighbourhood Development Order has been made, a planning application is not required for development that is within the terms of the order. Where a planning application conflicts with a neighbourhood plan that has been brought into force, planning permission should not normally be granted.

Related guidance: Determining a planning application

Tailoring planning controls to local circumstances

199. Local planning authorities should consider using Local Development Orders to relax planning controls for particular areas or categories of development, where the impacts would be acceptable, and in particular where this would promote economic, social or environmental gains for the area, such as boosting enterprise.

200. The use of Article 4 directions to remove national permitted development rights should be limited to situations where this is necessary to protect local amenity or the wellbeing of the area (this could include the use of Article 4 directions to require planning permission for the demolition of local facilities). Similarly, planning conditions should not be used to restrict national permitted development rights unless there is clear justification to do so.

201. Communities can use Neighbourhood Development Orders and Community Right to Build Orders to grant planning permission. Where such an order is in place, no further planning permission is required for development which falls within its scope.

202. Neighbourhood Development Orders and Community Right to Build Orders require the support of the local community through a referendum. Therefore, local planning authorities should take a proactive and positive approach to proposals, working collaboratively with community organisations to resolve any issues before draft orders are submitted for examination. Policies in this Framework that relate to decision-taking should be read as applying to the consideration of proposed Neighbourhood Development Orders, wherever this is appropriate given the context and relevant legislation.

Planning conditions and obligations

203. Local planning authorities should consider whether otherwise unacceptable development could be made acceptable through the use of conditions or planning obligations. Planning obligations should only be used where it is not possible to address unacceptable impacts through a planning condition.

Related guidance:

204. Planning obligations should only be sought where they meet all of the following tests:

  • necessary to make the development acceptable in planning terms
  • directly related to the development
  • fairly and reasonably related in scale and kind to the development

205. Where obligations are being sought or revised, local planning authorities should take account of changes in market conditions over time and, wherever appropriate, be sufficiently flexible to prevent planned development being stalled.

206. Planning conditions should only be imposed where they are necessary, relevant to planning and to the development to be permitted, enforceable, precise and reasonable in all other respects.

Related guidance: Determining a planning application


207. Effective enforcement is important as a means of maintaining public confidence in the planning system. Enforcement action is discretionary, and local planning authorities should act proportionately in responding to suspected breaches of planning control. Local planning authorities should consider publishing a local enforcement plan to manage enforcement proactively, in a way that is appropriate to their area. This should set out how they will monitor the implementation of planning permissions, investigate alleged cases of unauthorised development and take action where it is appropriate to do so.

Related guidance:


  1. Section 38(1) of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004: this includes adopted or approved development plan documents i.e. the Local Plan and neighbourhood plans which have been made in relation to the area (and the London Plan). 

  2. Section 38(6) of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 and section 70(2) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.