Local Plan Making Process
The 'Planning for the Future' White Paper proposes that there would be a statutory duty for local authorities to adopt a Local Plan under the new planning system - either 30 months from the legislation being brought into force, or 42 months for local planning authorities who have adopted a Local Plan within the previous three years or where a Local Plan has been submitted to the secretary of State for examination. In the latter case, the 42 month period would commence from the point at which the legislation is brought into force, or upon adoption of the most recent plan, whichever is later.
If implemented as proposed, there would only be one formal opportunity for landowners and developers to be involved in the plan making process before it is submitted to the Secretary of State, the initial 'call for sites' stage. There would then be an opportunity to comment on the final version of the plan but it would simultaneously have been submitted for public Examination. The final opportunity could be making comments directly to the Examination Inspector.
For the best chance of getting land allocated in the Local Plan, it therefore seems likely under the proposed new process, that landowners and developers will need to provide robust supporting information to demonstrate a site is viable, sustainable and deliverable for development at the 'call for sites' stage to try to influence the zoning process. It may be advisable, for example, to submit supporting evidence (such as expert highway reports, ecological reports and flood risk assessments), together with any memorandum of understanding to demonstrate the deliverability of a larger parcel of land where appropriate, and an illustrative masterplan.
The White Paper sets out 5 stages in plan production;
Stage 1 (6 months) 'call for sites' under the three categories of growth, renewal and protected areas;
Stage 2 (12 months) local planning authority draws up evidence and prepares the Local Plan;
Stage 3 (6 weeks) simultaneous consultation on the Local Plan and submission of the Local Plan together with a 'Statement of Reasons' to the Secretary of State for examination. Any comments made on the local Plan seeking change must explain how the plan should be changed and why.
Stage 4 (9 months) a planning inspector considers whether the three categories shown in the submitted Local Plan meet the statutory 'sustainable' test and accompanying national guidance. Binding changes can be made but the inspector where necessary to satisfy the test. The plan-making authority those who submitted comments have the right to be 'heard' by the inspector whom will decide whether this is done face to face, by video, phone or in writing. The inspector will produce a report;
Stage 5 (6 weeks) Local Plan map, key and text are finalised, and come into force.
Local Plans would be subject to a single 'sustainable development' test to ensure plans 'strike the right balance between environmental, social and economic objectives'.
The Duty to co-operate would be abolished,
The need for much of the evidence currently provided in support of a Local Plan would be streamlined and reassessed, such as environment and viability assessments.
As is currently the case, local planning authorities would continue to be required to review their Local Plan at least every five years and carry out an earlier review where there has been a significant change in circumstances, for instance where issues with land supply have been identified through regular monitoring. 'Where a review concludes that an update is required, then the same 30-month deadline would apply although there would be an expectation that in many cases an update could be completed more quickly'.
The Government may intervene if local authorities fail to meet the specified timeframes.