Quick guide

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There is just one planning system in England, but it operates on many levels

While your interest in, for example, a field may seem a very local concern, what will happen to that field depends on several levels of planning policy.

As shown below, local development is influenced by what happens locally and nationally.

For example, whether a patch of land is filled with houses depends on which sites of land were allocated for housing in the development plan.

This in turn depends on what national policy says about which land should be prioritised for housing development.

The structure of influence is laid out below, starting with

  • European directives and laws
  • National planning legislation
  • Primary acts of Parliament
  • Secondary (regulations)
  • National planning guidance (contained in the National Planning Policy Framework)
  • National policy on planning for minerals and waste, contained in Planning Policy Statements and Guidance notes
  • National Policy Statements. These outline Government policy on major infrastructure.

The National Planning Policy Framework has replaced most of the Planning Policy Statements and Guidance notes that used to make up the Government's national planning guidance. Some Planning Policy Statements and Guidance notes that deal with minerals and waste planning still exist however, and we explain more about this in 'National planning' section of this website.


These in turn influence

  • Local Transport Plans
  • Local Plans. The current style of Local Plan, known from 2004 - 2012 as a Local Development Framework, was introduced by the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004. They are made up of statutory Development Plan Documents, and non-statutory Supplementary Planning Documents.

These in turn influence

  • Neighbourhood Development Plans and Neighbourhood Development Orders. Both of these tools were introduced by the Localism Act 2011. For the first time they allow communities to write a document that will form part of the statutory Development Plan.

Planning decisions also have to take into account other 'material considerations' (relevant issues). These can include any Government policy and evidence of need.

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