development plans map photo


Local planning authorities in England must prepare development plans to guide development in their area over at least a 15-year period.

Development plans are central to the workings of England’s plan-led planning system, with the requirement that any planning decisions must be taken in line with the development plan unless material considerations indicate otherwise.

Development plans set out a vision and a framework for the future development of an area, addressing needs and opportunities in relation to housing, the economy, community facilities and infrastructure – as well as a basis for conserving and enhancing the natural and historic environment, mitigating and adapting to climate change, and achieving well designed places.  

Chapter 3 of the NPPF sets out requirements for preparing a local plan which each local planning authority is expected to prepare, either singly, or jointly with other authorities. Paragraph 15 states:

“Succinct and up-to-date plans should provide a positive vision for the future of each area; a framework for addressing housing needs and other economic, social and environmental priorities; and a platform for local people to shape their surroundings.”

Development plans may be made up of a number of separate ‘Development Plan Documents’ (DPDs) or be a single, comprehensive ‘local plan’ document, but they must provide for the following:

  • Strategic policies which set the priorities for an area   
  • Key Diagram, Policies Map and Site Allocations
  • Detailed non-strategic policies

Examples of Development Plan Documents include:

  • Joint Strategic Local Plans
  • Minerals and Waste Local Plans
  • Local Plans
  • Neighbourhood Plans
  • Other supplementary Development Plan Documents (DPDs)

Between 2004 and 2011 such plans were known as Local Development Frameworks, with strategic policies contained within what was known as a Core Strategy. 

Local plans must accord with national policies, considering local needs and variations as demonstrated by evidence.


Chapter 3 of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) sets out the government’s policy requirements for plan-making across England. 

Paragraphs 20-27 of the NPPF prescribe how strategic polices are to be prepared and maintaining effective co-operation in local plans.  

Paragraph 20 of the NPPF states, 

‘Strategic policies should set out an overall strategy for the pattern, scale and design quality of places (to ensure outcomes support beauty and placemaking), and make sufficient provision for:

a) housing (including affordable housing), employment, retail, leisure and other commercial development;

b) infrastructure for transport, telecommunications, security, waste management, water supply, wastewater, flood risk and coastal change management, and the provision of minerals and energy (including heat); 

c) community facilities (such as health, education and cultural infrastructure); and

d) conservation and enhancement of the natural, built and historic environment, including landscapes and green infrastructure, and planning measures to address climate change mitigation and adaptation.’

The NPPF requires that strategic policies look ahead, over a minimum 15-year period from adoption, to anticipate and respond to long-term requirements and opportunities, such as those arising from major improvements in infrastructure. 

Paragraph 23 of the NPPF describes how authorities should show broad locations for development on a key diagram, and land use designations and allocations identified on a policies map.

Strategic policies should provide a clear strategy for bringing sufficient land forward, and at a sufficient rate, to address objectively assessed needs over the plan period, in line with the presumption in favour of sustainable development.

This should include planning for and allocating sufficient sites to deliver the strategic priorities of the area (except insofar as these needs can be demonstrated to be met more appropriately through other mechanisms, such as brownfield registers or non-strategic policies).

For more information about strategic planning, see our Strategic Planning page. 



The Policies Map shows the boundaries of policies contained in a Council’s local plans that have spatial implications, i.e. allocations of land for development, and policy areas to which a specific policy applies, including:

  • Settlement boundaries
  • Land allocations for housing, retail and employment
  • Green Belt, countryside and environmental designations
  • Safeguarded land for transport proposals
  • Conservation Areas

Policies Maps will be updated each time a new Development Plan Document that has spatial implications is adopted or reviewed.


Detailed development management policies are set by Councils to deliver the strategic priorities for the area.  They can cover a whole range of topics, relevant to each authority area, but typically include policies on:

  • Housing
  • Employment
  • Retail
  • Design
  • Countryside / Rural Areas
  • Conservation and Heritage
  • Environment
  • Leisure
  • Transport
  • Infrastructure
  • Monitoring

In October 2023 the Levelling Up and Regeneration Act made provisions that would create ‘National Development Management Policies’.  These provisions are not yet enacted and will require secondary legislation.  

It is the intention that these national policies, written centrally by Government will automatically be imported into all local plans in England, and would take priority over any conflicting local plan policies in those plans.  


Supplementary Planning Documents (SPD), are often produced to address a specific issue and to provide detailed guidance to cover an area.  Common topics include affordable housing, developer contributions and car parking standards.

As the consultation and preparation processes associated with SPDs are not as onerous as a full Development Plan Document, they do not form part of the ‘Development Plan’ and are instead material considerations in the determination of planning applications.  They are nevertheless a useful way for local authorities to make tweaks to their adopted policies without having to undertake a full review of their local plan or to provide clarification or further detail in support of local land / DPD policies.  Government regulations prevent key DPD issues being dealt with by way of an SPD.


Local planning authorities outline which documents will form part of their Local Plan within a document known as the Local Development Scheme (LDS).  The LDS sets out a programme for the preparation and future review of the Local Plan.


Local planning authorities in England set out their policies and proposals for consulting with stakeholders, community groups, technical consultees and residents in a document called a Statement of Community Involvement (SCI).

This document also specifies how the council anticipates the realisation of community involvement and consultation associated with their processing of planning applications and development proposals.


In England where Unitary Authorities exist, they will have the powers to prepare Waste and Minerals Development Plan Documents, or they may choose to prepare a joint Mineral and Waste Document with a neighbouring authority.

In other areas, the County Councils remain the responsible bodies for the production of Waste and Minerals Local Plans, which can be prepared by the county alone or jointly with one or more neighbouring authorities.

The process for preparing waste and minerals policy documents is similar to that undertaken in preparing other types of Local Plan.


For more information on how local plans are prepared, see our Local Plan pages


Neighbourhood Plans are a type of development plan document prepared by a local Parish Council or a Neighbourhood Forum. 

As Neighbourhood Plan policies are part of the development plan, they can therefore be the starting point in the determination of planning applications in the same way that detailed policies within the local plan are.   

Policies in a neighbourhood plan are ‘detailed’ and must accord with the strategic policies of the local plan and national policy.  They are subject to examination and local referendum before being ‘made’. 

For more information, see our Neighbourhood Plan pages

TownPlanning.info has an extensive catalogue of articles and guides which help explain the town planning system in England. 

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