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Glossary of terms used on this site

There are 164 entries in this glossary.
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Term Definition

Most development needs permission to proceed. Development has a legal definition, found in section 55 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. There are two parts to the definition. The first is operational development, which includes the carrying out of building, engineering, mining or other operations in, on, over or under land. The second is changes of use, which covers the making of any material change in the use of any buildings or land.

Development consent order

Applicants promoting nationally significant infrastructure projects in the fields of energy, transport, water and waste will apply for a 'development consent order' rather than for planning permission under the Planning Act 2008. A development consent order, when issued, combines the grant of planning permission with a range of other consents that in other circumstances have to be applied for separately, such as listed building consent. All applications for development consent orders will be made to the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC).

Development Management Procedure Order

This describes the procedure that local planning authorities have to follow when dealing with planning applications and certificates of lawful use, as well as the procedure they must follow with applications that are a departure from the development plan.

Development management/control

Local planning authorities have powers to manage the development and use of land. Development management is the process through which it determines whether (and for what reasons and with what conditions) individual planning applications should be granted or refused.

Development plan

A development plan sets out the policies and proposals for the development, conservation and use of land and buildings in a particular local planning authority area. The development plan is the most important consideration for local planning authorities when they decide on a planning application. The development plan generally includes Development Plan Documents (DPDs) that are part of a local planning authority’s Local Plan. This includes waste and minerals documents prepared by county councils. The Localism Act 2011 made two key changes to the development plan. First, the Regional Strategies that have been part of it since 2004 will be abolished. Secondly, Neighbourhood Plans that have been prepared covering any part of the local planning authority area will become part of the development plan if they’ve received enough support in a referendum.

Development plan document

Under the new system of local planning brought in under the Planning & Compulsory Purchase Act 2004, the term 'development plan document' covers any Local Development Document that is part of the development plan. A development plan document has to be independently tested by a Government inspector and carries full weight in relation to planning applications, which distinguishes it from a supplementary planning document. Development plan documents include the local planning authority's core strategy, area action plans and proposals map.

District council

The lower tier, or where parish or town councils exist, middle tier, of the two or three-tier county shire local authority structure in England. District council responsibilities include planning, waste collection and provision of leisure facilities.

Duty to cooperate

The duty to cooperate was created in the Localism Act 2011. It places a legal duty on local planning authorities, county councils in England and public bodies to engage constructively, actively and on an ongoing basis to maximise the effectiveness of local plan preparation in the context of strategic cross boundary matters.

Economic impact reports

A report on the economic impact of a new road. Road schemes are often promoted on the basis that they will aid the regeneration of an area by attracting new businesses and creating new jobs. An economic impact report should demonstrate whether or not the proposed scheme will create these new jobs and who will benefit and to what extent. The report should also look at any negative economic impacts.


The enforcement of planning control. Local planning authorities should ensure that the terms and conditions of planning decisions are carried out and that development carried out without planning permission is brought under control. However, there is no statutory duty on local planning authorities to enforce controls and the degree to which they do varies according to political committment and the resources they devote to it.

Enforcement notice

A notice requiring cessation (and sometimes reversal) of unauthorised use and/or development begun without permission or in breach of a condition.

Environmental authority

The statutory bodies set up by Government with direct environmental responsibilities. In England, these are the Countryside Agency, English Nature, English Heritage and the Environment Agency.

Environmental impact assessment

This identifies and assesses the likely effects of a development on the environment. It should be done at the earliest possible opportunity and before a decision is made. Under the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations (1999), an assessment is required to accompany planning applications for developments that fall under schedule 1 of the regulations, or that exceed certain thresholds and are included under schedule 2 of the regulations.

Evidence base

The information gathered by a planning authority to support the preparation of development documents. It includes quantitative (numerical values) and qualitative (feelings and opinions) data

Examination in public

The method of considering public views on a draft Local Plan or proposed changes to it.

Five year housing land supply

Local planning authorities are required to demonstrate "a supply of specific deliverable sites sufficient to provide five years; worth of housing against their requirements" (NPPF, para 47). The supply should include an additional 5% "to ensure choice and competition in the market for land" (ibid.). However in cases where a local authority has a record of persistent under delivery, local planning authorities are expected to increase the buffer to 20%.

General conformity

Neighbourhood Development Plans and Neighbourhood Development Orders need to be in general conformity with the strategic policies of the relevant Local Plan. This means that neighbourhood policies cannot go against the main policies of the local authority for their area. It is up to the inspector who examines Neighbourhood Development Plans and Orders to check that they are in general conformity with the strategic parts of the Local Plan.

General Permitted Development Order

The GPDO 1995 provides permitted development rights for a specified range of development, meaning that those activities do not require an application for planning permission. However, agricultural buildings and certain telecommunications equipment covered by permitted development rights are also subject to a prior approval procedure.

Government planning policy

National planning policies that local planning authorities should take into account when drawing up development plans and other documents and making decisions on planning applications. These policies are mostly included in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), with some also included in Minerals Planning Policy Statements and Guidance notes.

Green Belt

Green Belt is a defined area of countryside around a town or city which is protected from ‘inappropriate’ forms of development – as defined in government planning policy on Green Belts. There are Green Belts throughout the country, but not in every county. Green Belts aim to stop urban sprawl and the merging of settlements, preserve the character of historic towns and encourage development to take place within existing built-up areas. Quality or appearance of land is not a factor when deciding whether to designate it as a Green Belt.

Greenfield site

Land that has not previously been used for urban development. It is usually land last used for agriculture and located next to or outside existing built-up areas of a settlement.

Habitats Regulations Assessment

A Habitats Regulations Assessment is the assessment of the impacts of implementing a plan or policy on international protected sites for nature conservation. These sites are Special Protection Areas (SPAs) for birds identified under the Birds Directive and Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) for habitats and species under the Habitats Directive. Ramsar sites (wetlands of international importance designated under the Ramsar Convention) are also considered under the assessment, as are candidate SACs and proposed SPAs.

The purpose of Habitats Regulations Assessment is to ensure that plans will not result in significant damage to protected wildlife sites. The assessment considers the impacts of a land use plan against conservation objectives of the site and identifies whether it would adversely affect the integrity of the site. Where significant negative effects are identified, alternative options should be examined to avoid any potential damaging effects.

Higher tier authority

Local authorities with elected councillors (county councils, metropolitan bodies and unitary authorities); so called because they are a higher level of government than district councils in counties with two tiers of government.

Highway authority

In most places, a local highway authority is either a county council, a metropolitan council or a unitary authority. Transport for London is the highway authority in the capital. Highway authorities are responsible for producing the local transport plan and for managing existing or proposed new local roads in the area.

Highways Agency

An executive agency of the Department for Transport, responsible for the construction, maintenance and management of the trunk road and motorway network.

Historic parks and gardens

Historic parks and gardens are designed landscapes which have been identified by English Heritage as worthy of protection and are assigned a grade of I, II* or II. They are listed on the Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest. They have no additional statutory controls, but Government planning policy says local planning authorities should protect them in when preparing development plans and determining planning applications

Housing density

The amount of housing in a given area. Density is used in planning for new residential development to measure the amount of new housing to go on land, and is usually measured in 'dwellings per hectare' (dpha). Government policy says that local planning authorities can decide what densities should be used in their areas.

Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC)

The IPC was set up by the Planning Act 2008, to handle applications for 'nationally significant infrastructure projects' in the field of energy, transport, water and waste. The IPC has since been abolished by the Localism Act 2011. Ministers will now make decisions on these major projects, on the basis of advice from the Planning Inspectorate.


Someone employed by the Planning Inspectorate, an independent agency of Government appointed by the Secretary of State to preside over inquiries into development plans and rule on planning appeals.

Land use

The way land is used or developed.

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