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Step 4: Understanding policies and proposals

Local Plans are made up of several different documents and policies.


A Local Plan will comprise a written document which will contain policies and proposals the purpose of which are explained in detail by further text (the 'reasoned justification'). It will also contain a proposals map.

Policies set out what development is planned and how this should be implemented:

  • They may be strategic policies, setting out the overall direction, spatial strategy and priorities of the plan, and the requirements for different types of development (e.g. the overall amount of business space and the number of homes to be planned for).
  • They may set out criteria which developments must comply with or take into account (e.g. design quality criteria, a sustainable design and construction policy, or a policy on meeting community needs).
  • They may set out in detail how development should take place (Development Management Policies), for example explaining how development should take account of the local historic character.
  • They may relate to defined areas where development will be resisted or where particular natural or historic assets will be protected.

Policies should provide a clear indication of how a decisionmaker should react to a development proposal.

Proposals relate to specific sites to be developed or protected. Details should be provided of exactly what is proposed, though often a more detailed 'development brief' or 'master plan' will be prepared to guide the development.

Top tip

If you do not think that sufficient detail is provided to explain the proposal, mention this in your comments and say what changes need to be made.

Reasoned justification explains the reasons for the policy or proposal, and points to the evidence to support it. It is a legal requirement.

Get involved: You don't have to read every policy - focus on your key interests, and have a look at the spatial strategy and key priorities to get an idea of the bigger picture. However, do bear in mind that the plan will be designed to be 'read as a whole' - this means policies should not include repetition, such as including a requirement to design development to protect the local landscape in every proposal to develop individual sites.

The proposals map shows the precise boundaries of any sites proposed for development and any other designations or areas to which the policies of the Local Plan relate. This will be usually be detailed and will use an Ordnance Survey map base.

Top tip

The proposals map is a good place to start to find out if there are any significant developments proposed in your area.

Commenting on policies and proposals

You may have an opportunity to comment on policies and proposals as part of the 'engagement stage' of the Local Plan preparation - when the options are being considered, and preferred options identified. However, it is possible that you may not see the full text of the Local Plan until the publication stage (see Step 5). For sample responses, see the letters in Appendix 2 and Appendix 3.

Commenting on policies and proposals

Questions to ask yourself:

  • Is the policy clear? Is it obvious what evidence the policy is based on? What will be the effects of the policy? Will the policy achieve the vision and objectives of the plan? Will it support the things you want the plan to do?
  • Have alternatives been considered to the policy or proposal? Is it clear what these are, and why they have been selected/ rejected? This is a legal requirement.

Top tip

The Sustainability Appraisal will set out the advantages and disadvantages of the policies and proposals. This can be a handy short cut to pinpointing possible effects on issues you might be interested in, such as providing land for business uses which is easily accessible by public transport, protecting and providing for community facilities, or building enough affordable housing to meet local needs.

Top tip

Don't forget, if you disagree with a policy or proposal, can you suggest a better alternative which would overcome your objection?

NextStep 5: Responding to the formal consultation on the publication version of the Local Plan

Further reading

What the Local Plan contains
What Local Plans can and cannot do

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