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The Development Plan

The Development Plan is a document that is used to guide future new development and changes in land use within an area. All local authorities must produce a development plan and keep this up to date.


Within London, this is the London Plan, it is produced by the Mayor and Greater London Assembly which provides strategic guidance; the second part which gives more detailed local guidance is the Unitary Development Plan or Local Development Framework; this is produced by your local council. The diagram below shows how the two parts of the development plan relate to each other.

Details of the London Plan can be found here.

Details of your local UDP or LDF can be provided by your local council.


The Council must consider the policies in the development plan documents, when assessing planning applications. This is a legal requirement that is set out in the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004:

Section 38(6)

''If regard is to be had to the development plan for the purposes of any determination to be made under the Planning Acts, the determination must be made in accordance with the plan unless material considerations indicate otherwise.''


The Local Development Framework (LDF) system was introduced by the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 and they will eventually replace Unitary Development Plans. While LDFs will continue to provide the planning strategy for an area, they are different from UDPs in that they have to co-ordinate with other Council strategies as part of a 'Spatial Planning' process.


The main differences between UDPs and LDFs are:

  • Earlier and more continuous community involvement.
  • LDFs are made up of a number of linked documents; if part of the LDF is out of date, it can be changed without changing the whole plan.
  • LDFs should be quicker to produce as the Inspector's report is binding on all parties.

The diagram below illustrates the differences between the old and the new system:


An LDF consists of a number of planning documents and plans; some of these will be subject to a public examination (inquiry) and are statutory parts of the plan; others can be more informal and are known as non-statutory parts. Together, all of these documents form the LDF; they are kept together within a 'portfolio' that allows the council to change only those parts of the plan that need updating. This is intended to provide a more flexible plan making system.

An LDF will usually be made up of the following documents:

  • The Local Development Scheme (LDS) - This is the timetable prepared by the council for the production of the LDF. This document must be approved by the Government Office for London.
  • The Statement of Community Involvement (SCI) - This sets out how the community will be involved in the preparation of the LDF; it should contain a range of consultation methods so that the Council can show that it intends to consult its community properly. The SCI will be independently examined by an Inspector who will ensure that it is an effective document. A 'sound' strategy for community involvement must be in place before an LDF can progress; the council must follow its rules throughout the LDF process or it runs the risk that its LDF could be challenged at a later date.
  • Development Plan Documents (DPD) - These are the most important parts of the LDF. DPDs are used for a number of purposes; the Core Strategy sets out the key approach to the planning of the area. Development Control Policies provide the detailed guidance that will be used to determine planning applications. Area Action Plans would be used where the council has particular policies for a specific area; this would include policies for redevelopment or regeneration.

All DPDs must be publicly examined and assessed by an independent Inspector who will test the council's proposals against national rules and regulations; he/she would then issue a legally binding report that would set out any changes that the council should make.

  • Sustainability Appraisal (SA) and Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) - All councils must carry out an SA to assess each DPD; this makes sure that it meets Government sustainability policies that are intended to reduce effects of new development upon the environment. In some cases where there are possible impacts on important environmental areas, an extra examination must take place under European law; this is known as SEA.
  • Supplementary Planning Documents (SPD) - These documents provide more detailed guidance about the council's policies; they may be used for specific sites or for particular issues such as loft extensions. An SPD is classed as 'non-statutory' guidance as it is not independently assessed by an Inspector. The community will have the chance to comment upon a new SPD before it is approved by the council.
  • Annual Monitoring Report (AMR) - As part of the LDF, the council must monitor how well its policies are working; these results are published so that everyone can see how well the LDF is meeting its overall strategy. The council will use the information contained in the AMR to suggest new or changed LDF policies.


The new system for preparing an LDF is based on a number of separate stages. In broad terms, these stages still deal with the same sort of things, as the old system, but they take place in a slightly different order and are called different things. The diagram below gives a summary of the steps to be taken when preparing an LFF and compares this to the old system.

You will see from the diagram above that there are basically four main stages to the whole process. These are:

Pre Production

During this stage, the council should make sure that it has a proper understanding of the main issues within its area that it wants the LDF to address. Information gathering is one of the most important parts of this stage and the council must also begin to assess the possible impacts of its early proposals and start to prepare a 'sustainability appraisal (SA)' report that explains this. The information that is compiled at this stage is also known as the 'evidence base'; the Inspector that eventually chairs the examination of the LDF will want to see this background information.


At this stage, the council should consider the issues that have been identified by its early work and it will start to put together alternative options to be included in the DPD; these options should also be supported by an initial sustainability report. The preparation of any options should be a continuous process and the council should clearly show that it has fully involved local communities (also called stakeholders) in this process as the council has set out in its SCI.

Once the alternative options have been considered, the council will prepare a version of the DPD with its preferred strategy that it will submit to the Secretary of State; again this plan must be accompanied by a sustainability report. At this time, the community will again have the opportunity to comment on these plans, in the ways set out in the SCI.


An independent Inspector will hold a public examination to listen to those views that have been received during the consultation periods.


After a period of time, the Inspector will publish a report which will set out the changes that need to be made to the DPD. In the new system, these changes which will be 'binding' on the council; this is an important change as previously the council could choose whether or not to accept the Inspector's comments. Once these changes have been made, the document will be adopted by the council.

More information on LDFs can be found here.


Laws and Regulations

Other Government Planning Policy