Local Plans set out the long term development strategy of an area. All planning decisions are made in line with your Council's development plan, the most signficant part of which is the Local Plan. This means the best way to influence how your local area changes is by getting involved in the creation of these plans.
Local Plans are where the big decisions on planning for the future of communities and land are made. They set out the long-term strategy for the development of the area covered by each local planning authority.
This includes deciding the future role of cities, towns and villages, and where new development should be concentrated. Local Plans identify: where, and how many, new homes should be built; the locations where businesses need more land to expand; which areas need to be regenerated (such as former industrial or military land, or older housing estates); where new shops should be located; and which areas should be protected from development (such as sensitive landscapes or habitats).
So, if you want to have your say in plans for the future of your city, town, village or neighbourhood it is important to get involved in the Local Plan. This is the best way to influence where and how development takes place.
Local Plans have to mediate between different interests. It's probably too much to ask of the planning system to make everybody happy. But it does try to ensure that the interests of all those affected are taken into account and decisions are made in the wider public interest.
There will always be some important major projects - power stations, windfarms, motorways, railways, waste facilities, quarries - that the nation as a whole needs in order to keep society and the economy functioning. Undoubtedly these major developments can have a significant impact on those living nearby. But most planning is more local, and is focused on shaping cities, towns and villages. It is about deciding where and what kind of facilities we need for our own communities - our houses, shopping, leisure facilities, factories and offices, nature reserves and playing fields - and how we move about - by train, bus, car, bike or on foot.
Local Plans are prepared by the local planning authority - your district or unitary council, depending on whether you have a single- or two-tier local authority. Where relevant, local planning authorities may chose to develop a Joint Local Plan with a neighbouring authority. Minerals and Waste Local Plans are prepared by county councils or, where they don't exist, unitary authorities.
The Government expects that in preparing a Local Plan the local planning authority will seek to engage and work together with neighbourhoods, local organisations and businesses. This will ensure that the Local Plan reflects the vision and aspirations of the local community.
Town and parish councils and the public have an important role to play in the Local Plan process. They are all invited to participate by making comments (sometimes referred to as 'representations') on the draft plan. They may also be invited to participate in a consultation event, make comments at a roadshow or in response to a leaflet, or get involved in a citizens' panel.
Statements of Community Involvement set out how the local planning authority will engage local communities in plan making: who they will engage and how. In particular, they list the community groups and other organisations which will be contacted about Local Plan stages, and the methods of consultation which will be used. Hard-to-reach groups are identified, and methods of helping them get involved set out. There is an emphasis on 'front loading' - getting people involved earlier on, to have a more meaningful input to the choices the plan will make.