Planning in the 2000s


The Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 scrapped county-level structure plans and for the first time introduced statutory regional planning in the form of Regional Spatial Strategies. This act also replaced old style Local Plans and Unitary Development Plans with Local Development Frameworks. Local Development Frameworks were, instead of being a single document like the old plans, supposed to be a folder of documents that outlined the vision for a local area.

Local Development Frameworks had to conform to the policies in Regional Spatial Strategies.

The Act also says that development plans must contribute to the achievement of sustainable development.

The structure of local planning documents as set out by the 2004 Act is still in place, but since 2010 the current Government prefers to refer to Local Development Frameworks as Local Plans. The Government is also keen to limit the number of documents that makes up the Local Plan to those that are only absolutely necessary.


Prosperous Places: Taking forward the Review of Sub-National Economic Development and Regeneration introduced the new Regional Strategy, which would combine the objectives of the Regional Spatial Strategy and Regional Economic Strategy introduced by the 2004 Act.


The Planning Act gained Royal Assent on 26 November 2008, and made a number of changes to existing planning law.  The main changes were:

  • Development plan documents produced by local planning authorities must include policies designed to contribute to the mitigation of, and adaptation to climate change.
  • The sustainable development duty in the Planning & Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 now includes a specific reference to the desirability of achieving good design.
  • Regional planning bodies were given the power to delegate any of their functions to the Regional Development Agency for their area.
  • Supplementary Planning Documents no longer have to be listed in a local planning authority's Local Development Scheme, or undergo Sustainability Appraisal.
  • Statements of Community Involvement do not have to undergo independent examination.
  • Local planning authorities can make small changes to planning permissions using a simpler process than the full planning application one.
  • From April 2009 the Secretary of State or Planning Inspectorate decides whether a planning appeal should be heard at a local inquiry, a local hearing, or by written representations. There are still circumstances where an inquiry will have to be held, however.


In 2010 a new coalition Government was elected, with 'localism' as one of their key priorities. The Localism Act received Royal Assent in November 2011, covering a huge range of different topics. In particular the legislation included a number of wide-ranging changes to the planning system. The mains ones are:

  • the abolition of regional planning, replacing it with a Duty to Cooperate which applies to all bodies involved in planning
  • the introduction of statutory neighbourhood planning
  • the abolition of the Infrastructure Planning Commission; decisions on major infrastructure projects will now be made by a Minister, after the application has been examined by the Planning Inspectorate
  • the introduction of a requirement for developers to consult the public before submitting a planning application over a certain size threshold
  • the introduction of some stronger enforcement powers for local planning authorities


The Government published the National Planning Policy Framework. This Framework replaces all existing national planning policy contained in Planning Policy Statements and Planning Policy Guidance notes with a single, streamlined document.

With so many changes being made to the planning system it can be difficult to work out how decisions are being made right now. We hope that the information on this website should help you make sense of how the planning system is working; how policies are being written and how decisions are being made.


The Growth and Infrastructure Act 2013 was the government’s attempt to boost the economy by bringing various reforms to the planning system. The main changes are:

  • An option for developers to submit planning applications for major development directly to the Planning Inspectorate where the local planning authority has a poor record of performance.
  • An amendment to permitted development rights to enable homeowners to extend their dwellings by up to 8 metres provided that they notify the Council of the proposal which will in turn will notify immediate neighbours.
  • Removal of the need for the Communities Secretary to approve local development orders (LDO) by which planning authorities relax planning requirements in specific areas. Councils no longer have to report annually on the effectiveness of the LDO.
  • A new application and appeal procedure enabling developers to apply for modification or discharge of the affordable housing elements of section 106 agreements in order to make developments viable.


National Planning Practice Guidance was launched in March 2014 as a web-based resource. It follows a review of planning policy guidance undertaken by Lord Taylor of Goss Moor which began in October 2012.
The NPPF can be said to be the strategic vision and the NPPG how you put that vision into practice. It contains all information on a wide range of topics. The NPPG is in part a consolidation of circulars and advice on planning that have now been cancelled.
A raft of old guidance has been cancelled and practitioners should be careful to consult this list before relying upon any historic guidance document.

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