National Planning Policy Framework

Plan-making

Paragraphs 150 to 185

150. Local Plans are the key to delivering sustainable development that reflects the vision and aspirations of local communities. Planning decisions must be taken in accordance with the development plan unless material considerations indicate otherwise1.

Related guidance: Local plans

151. Local Plans must be prepared with the objective of contributing to the achievement of sustainable development2. To this end, they should be consistent with the principles and policies set out in this Framework, including the presumption in favour of sustainable development.

152. Local planning authorities should seek opportunities to achieve each of the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development, and net gains across all three. Significant adverse impacts on any of these dimensions should be avoided and, wherever possible, alternative options which reduce or eliminate such impacts should be pursued. Where adverse impacts are unavoidable, measures to mitigate the impact should be considered. Where adequate mitigation measures are not possible, compensatory measures may be appropriate.

153. Each local planning authority should produce a Local Plan for its area. This can be reviewed in whole or in part to respond flexibly to changing circumstances. Any additional development plan documents should only be used where clearly justified. Supplementary planning documents should be used where they can help applicants make successful applications or aid infrastructure delivery, and should not be used to add unnecessarily to the financial burdens on development.

154. Local Plans should be aspirational but realistic. They should address the spatial implications of economic, social and environmental change. Local Plans should set out the opportunities for development and clear policies on what will or will not be permitted and where. Only policies that provide a clear indication of how a decision maker should react to a development proposal should be included in the plan.

155. Early and meaningful engagement and collaboration with neighbourhoods, local organisations and businesses is essential. A wide section of the community should be proactively engaged, so that Local Plans, as far as possible, reflect a collective vision and a set of agreed priorities for the sustainable development of the area, including those contained in any neighbourhood plans that have been made.

156. Local planning authorities should set out the strategic priorities for the area in the Local Plan. This should include strategic policies to deliver:

  • the homes and jobs needed in the area
  • the provision of retail, leisure and other commercial development
  • the provision of infrastructure for transport, telecommunications, waste management, water supply, wastewater, flood risk and coastal change management, and the provision of minerals and energy (including heat)
  • the provision of health, security, community and cultural infrastructure and other local facilities
  • climate change mitigation and adaptation, conservation and enhancement of the natural and historic environment, including landscape

Related guidance:

157. Crucially, Local Plans should:

  • plan positively for the development and infrastructure required in the area to meet the objectives, principles and policies of this Framework
  • be drawn up over an appropriate time scale, preferably a 15-year time horizon, take account of longer term requirements, and be kept up to date
  • be based on co-operation with neighbouring authorities, public, voluntary and private sector organisations
  • indicate broad locations for strategic development on a key diagram and land-use designations on a proposals map
  • allocate sites to promote development and flexible use of land, bringing forward new land where necessary, and provide detail on form, scale, access and quantum of development where appropriate
  • identify areas where it may be necessary to limit freedom to change the uses of buildings, and support such restrictions with a clear explanation
  • identify land where development would be inappropriate, for instance because of its environmental or historic significance
  • contain a clear strategy for enhancing the natural, built and historic environment, and supporting Nature Improvement Areas where they have been identified

Using a proportionate evidence base

158. Each local planning authority should ensure that the Local Plan is based on adequate, up-to-date and relevant evidence about the economic, social and environmental characteristics and prospects of the area. Local planning authorities should ensure that their assessment of and strategies for housing, employment and other uses are integrated, and that they take full account of relevant market and economic signals.

Housing

159. Local planning authorities should have a clear understanding of housing needs in their area. They should:

  • prepare a Strategic Housing Market Assessment to assess their full housing needs, working with neighbouring authorities where housing market areas cross administrative boundaries. The Strategic Housing Market Assessment
  • should identify the scale and mix of housing and the range of tenures that the local population is likely to need over the plan period which:
    • meets household and population projections, taking account of migration and demographic change
    • addresses the need for all types of housing, including affordable housing and the needs of different groups in the community (such as, but not limited to, families with children, older people, people with disabilities, service families and people wishing to build their own homes)3
    • caters for housing demand and the scale of housing supply necessary to meet this demand
  • prepare a Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment to establish realistic assumptions about the availability, suitability and the likely economic viability of land to meet the identified need for housing over the plan period

Related guidance: Assessment of land availability

Business

160. Local planning authorities should have a clear understanding of business needs within the economic markets operating in and across their area. To achieve this, they should:

  • work together with county and neighbouring authorities and with Local Enterprise Partnerships to prepare and maintain a robust evidence base to understand both existing business needs and likely changes in the market
  • work closely with the business community to understand their changing needs and identify and address barriers to investment, including a lack of housing, infrastructure or viability

161. Local planning authorities should use this evidence base to assess:

  • the needs for land or floorspace for economic development, including both the quantitative and qualitative needs for all foreseeable types of economic activity over the plan period, including for retail and leisure development
  • the existing and future supply of land available for economic development and its sufficiency and suitability to meet the identified needs. Reviews of land available for economic development should be undertaken at the same time as, or combined with, Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessments and should include a reappraisal of the suitability of previously allocated land
  • the role and function of town centres and the relationship between them, including any trends in the performance of centres
  • the capacity of existing centres to accommodate new town centre development
  • locations of deprivation which may benefit from planned remedial action
  • the needs of the food production industry and any barriers to investment that planning can resolve

Related guidance: Assessment of land availability

Infrastructure

162. Local planning authorities should work with other authorities and providers to:

  • assess the quality and capacity of infrastructure for transport, water supply, wastewater and its treatment, energy (including heat), telecommunications, utilities, waste, health, social care, education, flood risk and coastal change management, and its ability to meet forecast demands
  • take account of the need for strategic infrastructure including nationally significant infrastructure within their area

Minerals

163. Minerals planning authorities should work with other relevant organisations to use the best available information to:

  • develop and maintain an understanding of the extent and location of mineral resource in their areas
  • assess the projected demand for their use, taking full account of opportunities to use materials from secondary and other sources which could provide suitable alternatives to primary materials

Defence, national security, counter-terrorism and resilience

164. Local planning authorities should:

  • work with the Ministry of Defence’s Strategic Planning Team to ensure that they have and take into account the mostup-to-date information about defence and security needs in their area
  • work with local advisors and others to ensure that they have and take into account the most up-to-date information about higher risk sites in their area for malicious threats and natural hazards, including steps that can be taken to reduce vulnerability and increase resilience

Related guidance: Strategic environmental assessment and sustainability appraisal

Environment

165. Planning policies and decisions should be based on up-to-date information about the natural environment and other characteristics of the area including drawing, for example, from River Basin Management Plans. Working with Local Nature Partnerships where appropriate, this should include an assessment of existing and potential components of ecological networks. A sustainability appraisal which meets the requirements of the European Directive on strategic environmental assessment should be an integral part of the plan preparation process, and should consider all the likely significant effects on the environment, economic and social factors.

166. Local Plans may require a variety of other environmental assessments, including under the Habitats Regulations where there is a likely significant effect on a European wildlife site (which may not necessarily be within the same local authority area), Strategic Flood Risk Assessment and assessments of the physical constraints on land use4. Wherever possible, assessments should share the same evidence base and be conducted over similar timescales, but local authorities should take care to ensure that the purposes and statutory requirements of different assessment processes are respected.

167. Assessments should be proportionate, and should not repeat policy assessment that has already been undertaken. Wherever possible the local planning authority should consider how the preparation of any assessment will contribute to the plan’s evidence base. The process should be started early in the plan-making process and key stakeholders should be consulted in identifying the issues that the assessment must cover.

168. Shoreline Management Plans should inform the evidence base for planning in coastal areas. The prediction of future impacts should include the longer term nature and inherent uncertainty of coastal processes (including coastal landslip), and take account of climate change.

Historic Environment

169. Local planning authorities should have up-to-date evidence about the historic environment in their area and use it to assess the significance of heritage assets and the contribution they make to their environment. They should also use it to predict the likelihood that currently unidentified heritage assets, particularly sites of historic and archaeological interest, will be discovered in the future. Local planning authorities should either maintain or have access to a historic environment record.

170. Where appropriate, landscape character assessments should also be prepared, integrated with assessment of historic landscape character, and for areas where there are major expansion options assessments of landscape sensitivity.

Health and well-being

171. Local planning authorities should work with public health leads and health organisations to understand and take account of the health status and needs of the local population (such as for sports, recreation and places of worship), including expected future changes, and any information about relevant barriers to improving health and well-being.

Public safety from major accidents

172. Planning policies should be based on up-to-date information on the location of major hazards and on the mitigation of the consequences of major accidents.

Related guidance: Hazardous substances

Ensuring viability and deliverability

173. Pursuing sustainable development requires careful attention to viability and costs in plan-making and decision-taking. Plans should be deliverable. Therefore, the sites and the scale of development identified in the plan should not be subject to such a scale of obligations and policy burdens that their ability to be developed viably is threatened. To ensure viability, the costs of any requirements likely to be applied to development, such as requirements for affordable housing, standards, infrastructure contributions or other requirements should, when taking account of the normal cost of development and mitigation, provide competitive returns to a willing land owner and willing developer to enable the development to be deliverable.

Related guidance: Viability

174. Local planning authorities should set out their policy on local standards in the Local Plan, including requirements for affordable housing. They should assess the likely cumulative impacts on development in their area of all existing and proposed local standards, supplementary planning documents and policies that support the development plan, when added to nationally required standards. In order to be appropriate, the cumulative impact of these standards and policies should not put implementation of the plan at serious risk, and should facilitate development throughout the economic cycle. Evidence supporting the assessment should be proportionate, using only appropriate available evidence.

175. Where practical, Community Infrastructure Levy charges should be worked up and tested alongside the Local Plan. The Community Infrastructure Levy should support and incentivise new development, particularly by placing control over a meaningful proportion of the funds raised with the neighbourhoods where development takes place.

176. Where safeguards are necessary to make a particular development acceptable in planning terms (such as environmental mitigation or compensation), the development should not be approved if the measures required cannot be secured through appropriate conditions or agreements. The need for such safeguards should be clearly justified through discussions with the applicant, and the options for keeping such costs to a minimum fully explored, so that development is not inhibited unnecessarily.

177. It is equally important to ensure that there is a reasonable prospect that planned infrastructure is deliverable in a timely fashion. To facilitate this, it is important that local planning authorities understand district-wide development costs at the time Local Plans are drawn up. For this reason, infrastructure and development policies should be planned at the same time, in the Local Plan. Any affordable housing or local standards requirements that may be applied to development should be assessed at the plan-making stage, where possible, and kept under review.

Planning strategically across local boundaries

178. Public bodies have a duty to cooperate on planning issues that cross administrative boundaries, particularly those which relate to the strategic priorities set out in paragraph 156. The Government expects joint working on areas of common interest to be diligently undertaken for the mutual benefit of neighbouring authorities.

Related guidance: Duty to cooperate

179. Local planning authorities should work collaboratively with other bodies to ensure that strategic priorities across local boundaries are properly co­ordinated and clearly reflected in individual Local Plans5. Joint working should enable local planning authorities to work together to meet development requirements which cannot wholly be met within their own areas – for instance, because of a lack of physical capacity or because to do so would cause significant harm to the principles and policies of this Framework. As part of this process, they should consider producing joint planning policies on strategic matters and informal strategies such as joint infrastructure and investment plans.

180. Local planning authorities should take account of different geographic areas, including travel-to-work areas. In two tier areas, county and district authorities should cooperate with each other on relevant issues. Local planning authorities should work collaboratively on strategic planning priorities to enable delivery of sustainable development in consultation with Local Enterprise Partnerships and Local Nature Partnerships. Local planning authorities should also work collaboratively with private sector bodies, utility and infrastructure providers.

181. Local planning authorities will be expected to demonstrate evidence of having effectively cooperated to plan for issues with cross-boundary impacts when their Local Plans are submitted for examination. This could be by way of plans or policies prepared as part of a joint committee, a memorandum of understanding or a jointly prepared strategy which is presented as evidence of an agreed position. Cooperation should be a continuous process of engagement from initial thinking through to implementation, resulting in a final position where plans are in place to provide the land and infrastructure necessary to support current and projected future levels of development.

Related guidance: Duty to cooperate

Examining Local Plans

182. The Local Plan will be examined by an independent inspector whose role is to assess whether the plan has been prepared in accordance with the Duty to Cooperate, legal and procedural requirements, and whether it is sound. A local planning authority should submit a plan for examination which it considers is “sound” – namely that it is:

  • Positively prepared – the plan should be prepared based on a strategy which seeks to meet objectively assessed development and infrastructure requirements, including unmet requirements from neighbouring authorities where it is reasonable to do so and consistent with achieving sustainable development
  • Justified – the plan should be the most appropriate strategy, when considered against the reasonable alternatives, based on proportionate evidence
  • Effective – the plan should be deliverable over its period and based on effective joint working on cross-boundary strategic priorities
  • Consistent with national policy – the plan should enable the delivery of sustainable development in accordance with the policies in the Framework

Neighbourhood plans

183. Neighbourhood planning gives communities direct power to develop a shared vision for their neighbourhood and deliver the sustainable development they need. Parishes and neighbourhood forums can use neighbourhood planning to:

  • set planning policies through neighbourhood plans to determine decisions on planning applications
  • grant planning permission through Neighbourhood Development Orders and Community Right to Build Orders for specific development which complies with the order

Related guidance: Neighbourhood planning

184. Neighbourhood planning provides a powerful set of tools for local people to ensure that they get the right types of development for their community. The ambition of the neighbourhood should be aligned with the strategic needs and priorities of the wider local area. Neighbourhood plans must be in general conformity with the strategic policies of the Local Plan. To facilitate this, local planning authorities should set out clearly their strategic policies for the area and ensure that an up-to-date Local Plan is in place as quickly as possible. Neighbourhood plans should reflect these policies and neighbourhoods should plan positively to support them. Neighbourhood plans and orders should not promote less development than set out in the Local Plan or undermine its strategic policies.

185. Outside these strategic elements, neighbourhood plans will be able to shape and direct sustainable development in their area. Once a neighbourhood plan has demonstrated its general conformity with the strategic policies of the Local Plan and is brought into force, the policies it contains take precedence over existing non-strategic policies in the Local Plan for that neighbourhood, where they are in conflict. Local planning authorities should avoid duplicating planning processes for non-strategic policies where a neighbourhood plan is in preparation.

Related guidance:

Footnotes

  1. Section 38(6) of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004.

  2. Under section 39(2) of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 a local authority exercising their plan making functions must do so with the objective of contributing to the achievement of sustainable development.

  3. The planning policy for traveller sites sets out how travellers’ accommodation needs should also be assessed.

  4. Such as land instability, contamination and subsidence.

  5. In marine areas, local planning authorities should collaborate with the Marine Management Organisation to ensure that policies across the land/sea boundary are integrated.