Expert Insights

Expert Insights

An Overview of the New System: Plans & Guidance

The proposed new system is intended to be firmly plan-led, but with shorter, more visual and map-based plans. Development management policies could be removed altogether from Local Plans and set nationally.  As an alternative, optional technical standards could be included locally or other limits set on the scope of such policies, to ensure plans do not repeat nationally set policies. 

Local Plans would categorise all land into one of only three categories (see Decision Making for details on the implications):

  • growth” - suitable for substantial development (to be defined) perhaps including new settlements, urban extensions, areas for redevelopment and growth areas. There would be sub-areas for self and custom build homes and community led housing. Areas of flood risk would be excluded unless there is full mitigation.
  • renewal” – existing built areas, suitable say for smaller scale development, gentle densification and infill. This category may cover residential areas, town centres and rural areas, such as small sites within or on the edge of villages. Authorities could continue to resist inappropriate development of residential gardens.
  • protected” – here, development would be restricted due to environmental and/or cultural characteristics, such as Green Belt, conservation areas, local wildlife sites, areas of significant flood risk and “important areas of green space”. It could include gardens and open countryside.  Categories may be defined nationally or locally based on national policy.

Alternatives under consideration include combining “growth” and “renewal” into one category. Either way, for these categories, the Local Plan would focus on the detail, setting area or site specific suitable uses and limitations on height, scale and density, having regard to national policy, guidance and legislation (including permitted development rights and Use Class Order flexibility).

The resulting Local Plan would be shrunk to one third of its current size, set to a standard “model” template with accessible interactive maps of what can be built where. Neighbourhood plans are proposed to be retained, but further consideration given to their content. Questions remain on the role of strategic plans, including the London Plan - save perhaps in terms of allocating housing numbers.

The Government wants new buildings to be beautiful and reflect local character and preference. Following publication of the National Design Guide last year, it intends to publish a National Model Design Code with a revised Manual for Streets. To secure local diversity, local design guidance and codes should be prepared by each authority on an area or site basis, with “genuine” local community involvement.  These could form part of the Local Plan or become a supplementary planning document. Beauty is of course in the eye of the beholder.

Masterplans and design codes for substantial development should include a variety of development types by different builders to allow phases to come forward together – the answer to the Letwin Review - and other options to support faster build out will be explored further by the Government in due course.

The Government considers that the new system will garner more trust, as communities will be given a bigger up front say into what is built, and developers will have more certainty once sites are allocated. Whether a new system can indeed achieve such a win-win situation, delivering communities what they want on their streets and developers what they want to and can afford to build, remains to be seen.

This article was written by Claire Fallows, for more information, please contact her at

This article is part of a Planning Reforms: The Second Wave newsletter, click here for more information

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