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An effective land use planning system is vital for the wellbeing
of the United Kingdom. It provides the framework within which
decisions are made about the way towns, cities and the countryside
It provides the means through which competing demands between
economic, social and environmental considerations are balanced and
resolved to achieve sustainable development.
This Concordat provides the basis for partnership between
central and local government to deliver a modernised planning
It sets out six basic principles against which the planning
system needs to operate. Its objective is to create a fair and
efficient land use planning system that respects regional
differences and promotes development which is of high quality and
The planning system needs to be:
- aimed at achieving sustainable development
- set within a regional context
- led by development plans
- open and transparent, involving both local people and
- speedy and efficient, delivering best value
- co-ordinated with other policy areas and with public and
Aimed at achieving sustainable development
Sustainable development is about ensuring a better quality of
life for everyone, now and for generations to come. It provides the
context within which consideration of economic, social and
environmental impacts are balanced and integrated.
Through regional planning, development plans and development
control decisions, local government will seek to meet central
government’s objectives for sustainable development: high and
stable levels of economic growth and employment; social progress
which meets the needs of everyone; effective protection of the
environment and prudent use of natural resources.
Set within a regional context
Regional Planning Guidance (RPG) provides the regional framework
for the preparation of local authority development plans. It should
incorporate a regional transport strategy and provide the
longer-term, spatial planning strategy for the Regional Development
Agencies’ (RDAs) economic strategies.
RPG should increasingly be shaped by regional planning bodies
working in partnership with Regional Chambers, Government Offices,
RDAs and other regional stakeholders in the public and private
sectors. This will promote greater local ownership of regional
policies and increased commitment to their implementation through
the statutory planning process. RPG should include a sustainability
Led by development plans
The Local Government Association (LGA) and Communities and Local
Government (CLG) are committed to a development plan-led system
which provides the framework for consistent planning decisions.
However, under-performance by some local authorities in producing
statutory authority-wide local plans and Unitary Development Plans
could undermine the plan-led system.
The lack of an up-to-date plan means that individual decisions
are taken in a vacuum outside the context of policies which have
been properly consulted on through a statutory process. Public
accountability and the legitimacy of the planning system are
therefore eroded and the planning system cannot provide the
development industry with the certainty it needs.
Local planning authorities that are currently without an
up-to-date plan need to address the situation as a matter of
priority. In particular, they need to commit adequate resources and
staffing throughout the development plan process.
Open and transparent
The planning system needs to encourage the positive involvement
of local communities, the private sector and other interested
groups. Plans and other documents need to be comprehensible to the
The planning system in the United Kingdom has a good record in
terms of probity; it is vital that the highest possible standards
The Nolan Report identified areas where local authorities have
fallen short and the LGA subsequently published its own guide for
local authority councillors, Probity in Planning. This
document is commended to all local authorities.
Speed and efficiency: delivering best value
The planning system needs to deliver sustainable development of
high quality with proper consultation on planning decisions. It
needs to provide an efficient service to its customers, whether
this is for small, householder applications or major developments
People need to know that once a planning application has been
made it will be dealt with efficiently and effectively without
The government’s national target is that local authorities
should decide 80 per cent of planning applications within eight
weeks. Many local authorities are on the way of achieving this
target and some are exceeding it.
Local authorities are encouraged to develop local targets on
speed and quality, agreed with local applicants, including the
development industry, to support the achievement of best value in
The application to planning services of best value will involve
consultation with users, strategic reviews of services, comparison
with other local planning authorities, the use of performance
measures and auditing and inspection on a regular basis to ensure
Local authorities should also exchange and encourage good
practice. Considerable progress has been made by many authorities
on greater delegation to officers; use of 'one stop shops' to help
small businesses and others; the provision of clear guidelines for
applicants and more effective management and monitoring
arrangements, including the use of information technology. The LGA
facilitates good practice at a national level and through its
Developers and other planning applicants are urged to discuss
their proposals in detail with local planning authorities before
they submit their planning applications. This will ensure
fundamental points are addressed at an early stage and avoid delays
in the process later on. Applicants should also respond promptly to
requests from planning authorities, for example, for additional
To avoid misunderstandings, the applicant and local
planning authority should agree how an application will be dealt
with from the outset. This is particularly useful for large
developments on which negotiations are likely to extend beyond the
eight week period.
Statutory consultees involved in the planning process (for
example, English Heritage, the Environment Agency and the Highways
Agency) also have a vital role to play in ensuring that the system
works efficiently. Prompt responses from statutory consultees are
important to avoid delaying planning applications.
CLG, including the regional Government Offices, will ensure that
the use of Article 14 Directions does not cause undue delay and
that, where an application is called-in, the process is handled as
expeditiously as possible.
The Planning Inspectorate has an important role to play in
helping to improve the efficiency of the planning process. It is
set targets for the speed with which it handles planning appeals,
provides an inspector for local plan inquiries and delivers the
inspector’s report for those inquiries. The targets are reviewed
annually for the years ahead. The Inspectorate's website has
details of the current targets for the handling of appeals.
Co-ordination with other policy areas and with public and
Land use planning at all levels, from national guidance to local
plans, cannot operate in isolation from other areas of public
policy. Too often in the past land use planning has been accused of
being reactive and defensive; by involving itself more in wider
policy areas it can be more proactive and act as an enabler.
Local planning authorities need to integrate their development
plans and development control decisions with closely related plans
and policies, for example, transport, housing, economic
development, social inclusion, health and education.
Plans and planning decisions also need to take account of local
investment opportunities and potential investment decisions by
other public and private bodies. For example, plans should be
closely co-ordinated with transport investment, housing and
Planning authorities also need to take account of the needs of
the business community and work with private investors to maximise
the potential for sustainable economic growth and the provision of
benefits to the wider community.