Local Plans & LURB: The Position on Transition

At PAS I organise and manage the support for councils making Local Plans. My main Levelling Up & Regeneration Bill interest is the transitional arrangements – how will councils be guided into the new system? The effectiveness of the support PAS provides hangs on understanding this. Word has it that these the transitional arrangements are hurriedly being finalised so hopefully we’ll see something soon.

While I wait, and to shape my thoughts, I’ve set out in simple terms below what I think the main scenarios/questions facing councils are. I hope to use this as a frame for thinking about the kinds of support councils might need and to get some wider (and hopefully better) views.

For most councils the questions will be: ‘what does this mean for our Local Plan?’ and ‘should we continue working on our local plan?‘. The answer how to proceed will reflect where you are in the plan making process.

The government is encouraging councils to get (‘current system’) plans in place asap, with Housing Minister Stuart Andrew recently acknowledging “….that work will be valuable work anyway”.

The government has also said alongside the Bill:

  “To incentivise plan production further and ensure that newly produced plans are not undermined, our intention is to remove the requirement for authorities to maintain a rolling five-year supply of deliverable land for housing, where their plan is up to date, i.e., adopted within the past five years. This will curb perceived ‘speculative development’ and ‘planning by appeal’, so long as plans are kept up to date. We will consult on changes to be made to the National Planning Policy Framework.”

This 5 year land supply thing is significant I wonder if this refers to plans being made now? There are 4 main transition scenarios and questions facing local planning authorities as I see it: 

Scenario 1 – The Local Plan has been submitted for, or is at examination right now

  • Key questions:
    • If found sound, will our plan be ‘up to date’ in terms of not requiring a 5-year housing land supply?
    • Are we facing any increased risks due to the proposals in / statements made about the LURB e.g. our plan being withdrawn from examination or not being adopted even if it is found sound?
    • Will we be required to do an immediate review of our plan under the new system?
    • How will we be affected by the new data standard requirements?
    • When should we begin preparing our LURB local Plan?
    • How will the ‘weighting’ of National Development Plan Policy operate for us?

Scenario 2 – Local Plan production / update is advanced (e.g. at least at Reg 19 stage) and aiming for December 2023 adoption:

  • Key questions:
    • Will there be an advantage/incentive (outside of simply having an up to date plan in place) for continuing to work towards getting our plan adopted by December 2023? 
    • If found sound, will our plan be classed as up to date in terms of not requiring a 5-year housing land supply?
    • Are we facing any increased risks due to the proposals in the LURB e.g. a challenging timetable, Duty to Cooperate challenges, examination issues – could the plan be delayed in favour of the ‘new, simpler, quicker’ system?
    • How will we be affected by the new data standard requirements?
    • When should we begin preparing our LURB local Plan?
    • How will the ‘weighting’ of National Development Plan Policy operate for us?

Scenario 3 – Local Plan production / review advanced, adoption planned for 2024

  • Key questions:
    • Will there be a transition period that allows us to continue preparing our plan under the current system post e.g. December 2023?
    • How much of the work we have, and are preparing to undertake will not be required or not fit for purpose post reforms e.g. when will data standards and new Sustainability Appraisal (Environmental Outcomes Report) requirements affect the work we’ve already done?
    • The Infrastructure Levy will change the way we plan for affordable housing and other infrastructure requirements to support development through planning policy. How do we take account of this?
    • What is the risk of us pausing to enable us to prepare a plan under the new system?
    • How will the ‘weighting’ of National Development Plan Policy operate for us?

 Scenario 4 – Not currently reviewing the Local Plan / early thinking.

  • Key questions:
    • How much work do we do while we await the transitional details?
    • What can we start doing now?
    • How do we work with Government to engage in the “Test” and “Learn” approach to some areas of reform?

Once we understand more on this we can begin to build our support programme. Many practical things aren’t going to change – the need for good project management, effective work on strategic issues, good evidence bases and effective engagmnent of members – so the focus of our current support work will roll on for a while.

Help me look ahead – I’m bound to have missed some key questions and scenarios – help me build a better picture.

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One thought on “Local Plans & LURB: The Position on Transition

  1. Pingback: Transitional Arrangements for Local Plans: Top Ten ‘asks’   – Planning Advisory Service

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