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Why is the planning system important?


England's planning system shapes new development and the use of land all over the country with the aim of achieving outcomes that are positive for people, the economy and the environment.

The system exists to ensure that the development and use of land is in the public interest, weighing up its economic, environmental and social benefits and drawbacks. It plays a key role in helping to make the places where we live and work attractive, vibrant and well designed.

The planning system can help secure development that supports regeneration and that meets the needs of local communities. It can support the provision of affordable housing and other necessary development. It can make sure that new building in historic areas takes into account the surroundings and enhances their character. And it can prevent development where it would cause unacceptable environmental damage.

Local Plans

Want to make a difference to your community? Then start planning!

Local Plans are a key component of the planning system. They shape how land use and places will change and develop in the future. Planning applications need to be in line with Local Plans otherwise they are unlikely to receive planning permission. It is when Local Plans are being prepared therefore that you can have the most influence over shaping the future of your local area.

Once the Local Plan is adopted, many of the big decisions have usually been made, and your influence becomes more limited. It is therefore important that all of us - the public - and our community representatives, such as parish and town councillors, are aware of when and how to engage with Local Plans, in order to have our say about how we would like our cities, towns and villages to change and develop. If you don't speak up, you won't be heard! This guide will help you to get involved in the development of your Local Plan.

A community-led approach to planning

The Government, through the Localism Act 2011, has placed more emphasis on planning at the local level. It believes that communities know best what the local needs are and how they should be met.

This places a responsibility on local communities but it is also an exciting challenge. It is an opportunity to have a greater say in the planning system. You can bring your local knowledge, your sense of what you value, and your desire to make a difference to your communities.

How this section can help you

We show when and how you can get involved in Local Plans, and why it's in your interest to do so. You can learn about:

  • The need to engage with the preparation of Local Plans at the right time and in the right way to have an influence, before decisions are made on the overall strategy and approach to development.
  • The purpose and usefulness of accompanying processes, such as Sustainability Appraisal, in identifying the most suitable approach to development.
  • The role of Neighbourhood Plans and how they fit with Local Plans.

This site will give you the knowledge and tools you need to get started. It doesn't cover all the details, but it will provide you with the essentials. It explains some of the terms you might come across, and provides lists of contacts and useful information if you need more advice. We hope to you the confidence to engage with and enjoy planning!

Further reading

Key components of the planning system
Shape your local area

Reference information

The history of the planning system
Neighbourhood planning
Local development frameworks

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