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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
1. Evidence gathering and public participation  

This involves the authority identifying and consulting on the scope of the plan, based on the evidence that it has collected or that is already in the public domain. This stage may involve the local authority collecting and preparing relevant reports and studies which can form part of the evidence base for the new plan.

This stage may also involve the Local Planning Authority identifying different ways, or ‘options’, that the issues can be addressed. Local Planning Authorities often consult on the identified ‘Issues and Options’ at the same time.

The authority will also start the scoping stage of the sustainability appraisal. This will establish how the sustainability of the new plan will be tested.

Members of the public are usually consulted on this stage, although it is an informal stage that is not required by national regulations.

Tell the Local Planning Authority (LPA) what issues you think that the new Local Plan should cover and your preferred way, or option, for addressing them.

To be considered relevant, any comments that you submit must relate to the use of land and any implications arising from this. They must also be framed in the wider public interest rather than personal interest. It also helps if comments are supported by relevant published evidence rather than anecdotal evidence or generalised statements.

Provide the authority with any relevant local views, reports or actions that you (or your group) have prepared or know of. You should also highlight any, sites you think are suitable for development or areas you want protected from development.

National regulations encourages local planning authorities to publish the evidence supporting their Local Plans as it is gathered, and you may also like to comment on the assumptions and reasoning in these pieces of evidence.
2. Pre-Submission Publication Stage Making formal representations to the plan.
After taking account of the 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. This is a formal stage of the plan production process and there will be a period of at least 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 by the independent Planning Inspector at the examination stage (see next stage below).

Your comments should be framed in relation to the ‘soundness’ of the plan. There are four tests of soundness and further information on these is provided in the NPPF and PPG:

-          Positively prepared

-          Justified

-          Effective

-          Consistent with national policy

You should be specific as to why you consider the document to be sound or unsound. If you think that the plan is unsound you should make clear what change(s) you are seeking and why these would make the document sound. To help with this you should provide as much relevant evidence as possible to back up your arguments.  

3. 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 hold an examination in public to determine whether the preparation of the Local Plan and consultation procedures undertaken by the local planning authority meet the requirements of national legislation and therefore whether the Plan is ‘sound.’ The Inspector will also examine the Sustainability Appraisal documents and the supporting evidence base to ensure that they are adequate, up-to-date and relevant.

If you made representations at the previous stage then you will be informed of the arrangements for the public hearing sessions that will be held as part of the examination. The Inspector may invite you to attend one or more of these hearing sessions so that you can present your comments in person. The Inspector will decide who has a right to speak at the examination hearings based on the relevance of the matters raised to planning and the number of people who can realistically be expected 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 hearings.

It is often the case that landowners, developers or interest groups will appoint professionals to represent their interests at examination. However the degree of professional representation has no bearing on the weight given to the matters raised and you should not be deterred by this. The Inspector will give greater weight to matters that are of most relevance to planning and the scope and implications of the Local Plan itself.
4. Inspectors Report and Adoption by the Local Planning Authority 
The Inspector must recommend adoption where they consider that the Local Plan satisfies the legal requirements and can be considered sound. If the Inspector identifies conflicts between the plan and national policy and regulatory process then they can find the plan to be ‘unsound’ and should not proceed any further. In which case the local planning authority will have to revise and republish the plan for consultation before submitting it for examination again. If the conflicts can be overcome as part of the examination, the Inspector may recommend modifications to the plan to overcome these matters in agreement with the planning authority. In practice most plans require modification through examination, and there may also 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 decline to make the changes and instead prepare and submit a new plan. There are costs associated with plan production and examination, and local authorities should be able to provide you with information on this.

 

Your local planning 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. It is your own responsibility to ensure that you submit relevant comments during the appropriate consultation periods that the local planning authority has set out.

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 that is consistent with the Statement of Community Involvement.

Both the Local Development Scheme and the Statement of Community Involvement are required to be available on the web. The local planning authority may also publish news of any public consultation exercises currently underway so it is always worth having a look at the planning pages of your authority’s website to stay up to date.

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

 

 

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