A Brief Guide To The New Planning System

The information below was obtained from an article produced by the Chiltern District Council - We were impressed by their clear summary of a complex subject. A lot is presently changing in the planning realm - a good reason for investing in land. In essence the contentions decision for deciding how many houses must be built in an area is now taken by a remote Regional Assembly rather than local politicians.

The Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 marks the next step in the Government's aim to reform the planning system, following the Planning Green Paper, "Planning - Delivering Fundamental Change", published in December 2001.

Development Land

The Green Paper identified the need for fundamental reform of the system to:
Simplify the complex nature of plans: and
Increase the speed at which plans are produced and decisions on applications are made.

The Act establishes a number of measures that seek to achieve the above objectives with the intention of making the system 'clearer, faster and more certain'.


Planning Policy Guidance Notes will be replaced by Planning Policy Statements, a more streamlined set of government planning policies. This will be supported by an increasing quantity of best practice documents.

Structure Plans will be abolished and Strategic Planning Policy will be provided instead by Regional Bodies, paving the way for devolution to Regional Assemblies.

Local Planning Authorities will still produce local planning policy but in a new more flexible form, called Local Development Documents. These will replace Local Plans and Unitary Development Plans

A number of changes are proposed to reduce delay and speed up decision-making. Local planning authorities now have wider compulsory purchase powers and compensation will be available to occupiers as well as owners.


National Level

National policies are currently set out in 25 Planning Policy Guidance Notes (PPGs) and 15 Mineral Planning Guidance Notes (MPGs). In addition, there are numerous circulars, policy statements, good practice documents, advice and other material relating to such matters as housing, transport, town centres and the countryside. The new plan-making system will see Planning Policy Guidance Notes replaced by Planning Policy Statements (PPSs).

Strategic/Regional Level

Regional Planning Guidance presently sets development strategies for individual regions. The Government continues to see the need for effective planning at the regional level particularly for developing regionally based policies for strategic issues, such as new housing and transport.

Under the new Bill, structure plans at the County level are abolished. Strategic policy will instead be produced by Regional Planning Bodies in the form of Regional Spatial Strategies (RSSs). More focused and specific to regional needs, Regional Spatial Strategies will provide a framework by which to develop plans and strategies at the local level. The content of these documents is anticipated to be much broader than the current Regional Planning Guidance, and may include additional strategic land use and development matters such as congestion charging. All Local Development Documents must be in general conformity with the Regional Spatial Strategy.

Local Level

The Act introduces a new type of plan at the local level called Local Development Frameworks (LDFs), which all local planning authorities must produce. They will be made up of a series of documents called Local Development Documents (LDDs) that together will provide the framework for delivering the spatial planning strategy for the area.


Key Components

The Local Development Documents that comprise the Local Development Framework must include a Statement of Community Involvement and can include any additional documents that the local planning authority deems appropriate for delivering the spatial strategy for the area. Typically, the Local Development documents will be made up of the following components:

(A) Statement of Community Involvement (SCI)

This document will set out what and how the Council intends to consult with the community. As the Local Development Documents are intended to be the spatial expression of the Community Strategy, the SCI will also identify the links between the Local Development Documents and the Community Strategy.

(B) Development Plan Documents (DPDs)

Development Plan Documents will form the 'heart' of the new Local Development Framework. A series of documents, they will set out the local planning authority's policies relating to the development and use of land in their administrative area.


Under the new legislation, local planning authorities must outline every Local Development Document that they intend to produce over the next three years, in a Local Development Scheme. The local Development Scheme will set out a rolling 3 year timetable for production of the Local Development Documents. It will be reviewed annually.


The concept and attainment of sustainable development is increasingly at the forefront of international land use planning. An essential part of the production process is that the emerging plan must be the subject of a Sustainability Appraisal and Strategic Environmental Assessment. The latter is a European Union requirement.


The Government's intention is to speed up the processing of planning applications and to improve responsiveness to the needs of the community, especially business. The Act has subsequently introduced a number of modifications to the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, which seek to address these issues.

Jan 06

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