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When should you get involved?

As a general rule, the sooner you can get involved the better. All Local Plans go through a set process of preparation and involve a number of key stages:

Key stages of production Your opportunities for involvement
Evidence gathering and public participation Tell the Local Planning Authority (LPA) what the issues are. There are certain issues which are relevant or ‘material’ to planning and issues which are not. Typically to be relevant to planning, views must relate to the implications of the use of the land in the wider public interest rather than generalised statements or matters of purely personal interest.

This involves the authority consulting specific and general consultation bodies on the scope of the plan, and collecting and preparing relevant reports and studies which can form part of the evidence base.

The authority will also start the scoping stage of the sustainability appraisal.

Members of the public are consulted on this stage.

Provide the authority with any relevant local views, reports or actions that you (your group) has prepared or know of. You should highlight the main issues you want the Local Plan to address, sites you think are suitable for development or areas you want protected from development.

Make comments on the different ways or options to address the issues identified and suggest alternatives.

Guidance encourages authorities to publish the evidence behind Local Plans as it is gathered, and you may also like to comment on the assumptions and reasoning in these pieces of evidence

Pre-Submission Publication Stage Making formal representations to the plan.
After taking into account of early consultation responses and the findings of the Sustainability Appraisal, the planning authority will publish its proposed Local Plan Document (known as the 'submission document') for consultation. There is a period of 6 weeks for consultation. A Sustainability Appraisal report will be issued as well as part of the public consultation.

This is the last opportunity to make comments on the plan before it is submitted for examination.

The purpose of this stage is to enable people to make comments that they want to be taken into account at the examination stage. If you make representations at this stage the examining inspector should notify you of the public hearing sessions as part of the examination, to which you may request to attend to make your views in person.

You should be specific as to why you consider the document to be unsound, what change(s) you are seeking and why these changes would make the document sound. There are four tests of soundness and further information is provided below:

-          Positively prepared

-          Justified

-          Effective

-          Consistent with national policy

You need to provide evidence to back up arguments.  More information can be found in the NPPF and in the PPG

Submission of Document and Independent Examination Making formal representations to the plan.

The final draft submission documents along with a summary of the main issues raised during the pre submission consultation will be submitted to the Government.

An independent Inspector will examine whether the document preparation and consultation procedures meet the requirements of the Act and whether the Plan is ‘sound.’ As part of the examination the Inspector will examine the Sustainability Appraisal as part of the evidence base. This consists of adequate, up-to-date and relevant evidence about economic, social and environmental characteristics and prospects of an area.

You may be able to attend an examination hearing and discuss your representations with the Inspector. The form of the examination (written representations or attendance at the examination hearing) will depend on the issues or evidence that the Inspector is considering and the nature of the representations themselves. The Inspector will decide who has a right to speak at the examination hearings based on the relevance of the issues raised to planning and the number of people who can realistically be expected to have the opportunity to contribute to a public hearing.

The Inspector will consider all comments submitted during the pre-submission consultation and written representations have the same weight as representations made during the examination hearing.

It is often the case that landowners, developers or interest groups will appoint professional representation of their interests at examination. However the degree of professional representation has no bearing on the weight given to issues raised and you should not be deterred by this.

Report and Adoption
The Inspector must recommend adoption where they consider that the document satisfies the legal requirements and can be considered sound. If the Inspector identifies conflicts between the plan and national policy and regulatory process, they will only be able to recommend modifications to overcome these issues if they are asked to do so by the planning authority. In practice most plans require modification through examination, and there may be further rounds of consultation if there are particularly complex issues. Authorities can suggest their own modifications for assessment by the Inspector during the examination, as well as making minor non-material changes themselves. The authority is then free to choose to accept the Inspector’s modifications and adopt the plan, or resubmit a new plan in cases where it is determined that the Plan is not sound. There are costs associated with plan production and examination, and local authorities should be able to provide you with information on this.

 

Your authority will produce a Local Development Scheme, which is a 'project plan' for the preparation of the Local Plan and which tells you which documents will be produced and when and it is your responsibility to submit comments during the appropriate consultation periods.

The authority will also produce a Statement of Community Involvement which identifies how it will run consultation events and notify local people. Plans must be prepared in a way which is consistent with the Statement of Community Involvement. Both documents should be available on the web, along with news of any public consultation exercises currently underway.

You may also want to talk to your local ward councillor, residents’ association or local amenity society to see what they are doing.

 

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