Latest local plans in flux – what this means for development

site analysis and settlement boundaries

Since the introduction of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) in 2012, the Government has been pushing for the planning system to be genuinely plan-led at both a local and national level.  In order to achieve this Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) need to adopt up-to-date local plans which align with the overarching national planning policies as set out in the NPPF, whilst providing a detailed framework at a local level for addressing housing need, environmental, social, and economic priorities, and demonstrate a deliverable 5-year housing land supply.

Given that c.92 LPAs still do not have an up to date Local Plan in place, preparing and adopting a local plan is clearly not a straightforward or swift process. Recent updates in January 2020 highlight that several LPAs have had their local plans thrown out, withdrawn or delayed (the most notable being South Oxfordshire, who is publicly arguing with the Secretary of State about withdrawing their Local Plan). In some of these authority areas, this has also resulted in, or exacerbated, an identified shortage in their housing land supply.  Examples include:

  • Wealden District Council – Local Plan thrown out for not providing sufficient housing and failing on duty to cooperate with neighbouring authorities;
  • Sevenoaks District Council – Inspector urges local authority to withdraw plan, as they believe the council have failed on their duty to cooperate with neighbouring authorities;
  • Uttlesford District Council – Inspector urges local authority to withdraw plan, as they believe the council have failed on their duty to cooperate with neighbouring authorities and “vague” evidence to justify proposals for three garden communities;
  • South Oxfordshire District Council – New local government wants to withdraw local plan, but this is currently being denied by the Secretary of State;
  • Tewkesbury Borough Council – Local Plan has been progressing slowly and the council have been found to have a significant housing shortfall;
  • York City Council – Has not adopted a Local Plan since 1954 and remains on a Government watch list for failing to make enough progress.

Local plans and development opportunities

If your property or development site lies within a local authority area where the local plan has been withdrawn, thrown out or is still progressing through the examination process, and the council are not able to demonstrate  a 5-year housing land supply (5YHLS), then this could potentially open up a number of strategic development opportunities.

In our experience, once a local Plan is adopted, some LPA’s can use the blunt instrument of settlement boundary to refuse and control development in their area.  But we believe that good development is far more subtle than that and that sites should be considered on a case by case basis, and in line with the NPPF’s overarching aim that planning contribute to the achievement of sustainable development. The circumstances outlined above provide an opportunity to interrogate and explore development options in a less restricted framework.

A prime example of this is our involvement on projects with sites situated outside development, village and settlement boundaries, where there was a lack of 5YHLS an or an out of date local plan. Following a detailed development appraisal, interrogation of local and national policies and a strategic planning approach, we have had great success in unlocking the development potential of sites and evidencing their sustainable qualities.  We strongly believe in supporting good development in the right places and feel that policies should be positive and proactive rather than restrictive.

How we can help

We use a combination of our experience, knowledge, access to mapping systems and planning technologies, our nuanced understanding of the planning system and an appreciation for the importance of planning balance to provide our clients with strategic planning guidance for their projects.  Trusting that an initial site appraisal is positive, we can then advise and assist you through the following options:

+ Pre-application- is it worth and how to get the most out of it?

+ PiP, outline or full planning application – which route is best?

+ How to submit an effective local plan representation and positively get involved in your local plan process, be it putting your site forward for allocation in the local plan or making a case for commercial development.

+Implementing an effective planning strategy might also see you engage on more than one planning route, for example simultaneously seeking allocation and submitting a planning application at the same time.

Whatever the strategy, it will be informed by the site particulars, local and national policy considerations and the overarching development aims of our client.

If you have a site that you think might have potential and you want to understand your strategic development options for the site, then contact our personable team to see how we can help and to receive a no obligation fee quote for our services.  Our team has wide-ranging experience and we have worked with over 60% of all Local Planning Authorities across England.

Contact us via or call us on 01242 501003 to see how we can best assist you, providing the site address and a brief overview of your project.  You can also submit your site via our Landmark Page. We value your privacy and any information which you provide will not be shared outside of our company and will only be used in relation to your enquiry.

Information sources

Planning Resource have provided a useful interactive mapping system showing the progress of local plans in all local authority areas.  Please follow the link here.

Pins Strategic Plan Process, January 2020

IMAGE SOURCE: Plainview Planning 2019