This information was created with the help of Planning Aid England, and reflects the planning system in England. Updates to include other nations in the United Kingdom will be added soon.
Your local area
Every day, decisions are made about what homes, roads, offices, and shops are built where. Which public spaces will be created and which will be protected.
These are decisions that impact everyone. They connect us with doctors, parks, pubs and playgrounds. Where our children grow up, and where they’ll live when they leave home. By engaging with local plans in your area, you can help decide how your community works.
While we know decisions about planning are important, the planning system can be confusing. Here, we’ll explain how the planning system works, and how you can help shape your community.
How do local plans work?
The UK's planning system manages the use and development of land and buildings. It seeks to create better places for people to live, work and play, balancing economic development with improving public spaces, heritage, amenities and the environment to tackle climate change.
This involves plan-making and managing development, with Local Plans playing a crucial role in setting out the priorities and policies for new development within a local area.
Local authorities must consider the needs of the area and community, as well as national policies, in creating Local Plans. Supplementary Planning documents, Master Plans, and Area Action Plans may also be produced to guide development.
Get involved in making Local Plans
Getting involved in making Local Plans offers the chance for individuals to have a say in shaping their local area. Local authorities are required by law to publish a Statement of Community Involvement, outlining their consultation process with the general public and specific groups. The evidence gathering stage allows members of the public to voice their concerns and suggest potential solutions.
A draft Local Plan document is then published for consultation and submitted to the independent Planning Inspectorate for an assessment of its soundness. As part of their assessment, the Planning Inspectorate carry out an ‘Examination’ of the draft Local Plan and consider any issues raised in representations made during consultation. The Local Plan can be revised based on any recommendations made during the Examination and the plan formally adopted by the local authority.
Putting the power back into the community
Shaping your neighbourhood
Local communities have powers to shape development in their area by preparing a Neighbourhood Development Plan.Neighbourhood Development Orders can also be used to set out the type of development that can go ahead without needing planning permission. Neighbourhood development plans and development orders must be initiated by an established parish or town council, or a designated neighbourhood forum group (where there is no parish or town council).
A draft plan is created and made available for comments for at least six weeks before being examined by an independent inspector and put to a community referendum. Once ‘made’, it will form part of the Development Plan and be used in decision making.
Planning Aid England (PAE) provides planning guidance and advice for the general public via www.planningaid.co.uk. This web resource includes clear, simple explanations of how the planning system works; answers to questions people most often ask about planning; and access to PAE’s volunteer-led email advice service which offers a limited amount of free, general planning advice.
Understanding planning permission
If you want to build a new structure, make significant changes to an existing building, or alter how a piece of land or a building is used, you usually need "planning permission" from your local authority.
There are two main types of planning applications: full and outline. The full application provides detailed information about your project, including its design and layout. On the other hand, outline applications require less detail; they're used to determine if your project is acceptable in principle.
Different application forms exist for specific cases, such as home extensions, work on listed buildings, or developments in conservation areas. You need to submit your application to your local authority, and they'll specify what drawings and documents they require.
Whether your planning permission is approved depends on whether your project aligns with the National Planning Policy Framework and the policies and proposals in your Local Plan, unless there are strong reasons or other factors suggesting otherwise.
You can find out more about the planning process here.