Local Plans

Local plans remain the main instrument for translating policies into land use planning decisions at the coalface, and the primary focus for local authorities and communities to address their future options for growth and development. The post-2010 emphasis on ‘localism’ appears to reinforce this, as in different ways did the reforms of the mid-2000s. Local plans should provide more certainty to landowners and developers, but they have continued to disappoint, probably because impossibly contradictory expectations are placed upon them. As ‘unitary’ development plans they have to combine the functions of the strategic plan, as outlined earlier, with that of a local zoning plan, detailed design guidance and action area plan. As a ‘statutory’ function, they tend to accumulate some of the functions of local authority corporate or ‘community’ plans. Local plans are required to reflect national planning policies, but also be the primary vehicle through which local communities can participate, comment on and influence local development. There is no question that local communities want a chance to participate and have a say, and that the move towards a more participative planning is an unstoppable societal trend, but at the same time this inevitably adds to the complexity, time and cost of preparing and approving plans. Thus, despite repeated strong commitments to achieve fuller coverage of up-to-date local plans, actual performance falls far short (Baker Associates 2008). With local planning services experiencing a 45 % cut in budgets between 2010 and 2014, this situation does not look set to improve. There have been attempts to remedy the problem through neighbourhood planning under the Localism Act but as yet outcomes remain unclear.

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