It is the policy expectation that each Planning Authority should produce a single Local Plan for the area with the policies and proposals in the one place. Previously, Local Plans may have consisted of a series of documents but this is no longer the preferred approach (though many authorities still produce multiple documents that collectively represent their ‘Local Plan’).
The Local Plan should set out the long term overall vision and strategic objectives on how the area should develop. It will include a strategy for achieving the objectives, setting out how much development is needed, where, when and by what means it will be delivered, and how the delivery will be managed and monitored The Local Plan should allocate strategic sites that are considered central to achievement of the strategy for example sites for housing and employment.
The Local Plan should be supported by a policies map (sometimes still referred to as a ‘proposals map’) which will show where development could take place. It should also identify areas of protection such as nationally protected landscape, areas of importance for nature conservation and Green Belt.
Other development plan documents may be produced if your authority considers specific issues or areas are not adequately covered in the Local Plan, however, the authority must provide clear justification for doing so. For example an Area Action Plan could be produced. Area Action Plans are specific to an area that is in need of significant change for example major regeneration, or conservation.
If necessary the authority may also produce Supplementary Planning Documents (SPD), These build upon and provide more detailed advice or guidance on the policies in the Local Plan and they can cover a range of issues for example affordable housing or design. They are not formally part of the development plan but may be material considerations in decision taking.
Your planning authority is obliged to publish a project plan called a Local Development Scheme to provide the timetable on what development plan documents will be produced and the main stages in production, including the opportunities for your involvement. Your planning authority will also set out its promise on how and when you can get involved in planning matters (including the preparation of the Local Plan and major planning applications), in a document called a Statement of Community Involvement. You can also check your authority's latest Authority Monitoring Report on what stage the Local Plan has reached in its preparation or the extent that the policies and proposals set out in the adopted Local Plan are being achieved. These can usually be found in the planning policy section of your planning authority's website.