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Why Are Local Development Frameworks So Important?

We've talked about Local Development Frameworks, or LDFs and their relevance to planning law a lot in some of our news articles. They're not directly addressed all that often on planning solicitor websites like ours because the practical implications are always relative to location.

Because the implications of LDFs are so subject to location, they can be quite unsatisfying as an article topic – the ultimate response to questions about what a Local Development Framework means for your planning application is usually going to be "That depends on the Local Development Framework". While this is true, it's frustrating and not very helpful.

So, we're giving a broad overview to help developers understand more about how Local Development Frameworks work and why they are important – but if you have a specific question about your development and your Local Development Framework, we have to recommend getting in touch and asking us a question, or checking our articles about some of the Local Development Frameworks in Kent and Medway towns.

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What Is A Local Development Framework?

A Local Development Framework is a collection of documents that lay out the strategy the local authority will use to approach local development.

Required Documents For A Local Development Framework

Local Development Scheme

The plan for creating a LDF is laid out by the Local Development Scheme. Once the LDS is in place, the LDF will be created according to the timetable and details within the LDS. The LDS also functions as the first port of call for the public when they want to find out about a local authority's LDF.

Statement of Community Involvement

The Statement of Community Involvement is a statement of intent, where the local authority lays out how they intend to get the local community involved with development and planning decisions, a method of encouraging the community to engage, and a tool to provide information and feedback on success and progress in this area. An SCI is thus very important for all aspects of community involvement, whether the local authority is in the planning, execution or measuring and adjusting stages. Community involvement is required while working on the LDF as well as during planning applications and appeals.

Annual Monitoring Report

The Annual Monitoring Report is a yearly report assessing the progress of the LDF. As well as assessing whether local objectives and the objectives laid out within the LDF are being met, an AMR will include information on some standard objectives or indicators where appropriate.

Approved

Core Strategy

The Core Strategy document outlines a long-term vision and sets clear long-term objectives for the LDF. Other documents need to be compatible with and conform to the Core Strategy document, making it one of the more important parts of the LDF. The Core Strategy document is also the first of the "Development Plan Documents" we will be discussing here. These are the documents that outline the goals and specific plans of the LDF, as opposed to the more administrative, higher-level documents like the LDS and SCI.

Site Specific Allocations

The document on Site Specific Allocations relates to the use of specific land for specific developments, and as such is distinct from the Core Strategy document, which focuses on generalities.

Sites need to be extremely carefully chosen based on their suitability for the intended purpose, among other factors.

Adopted Proposals Map

An Adopted Proposals Map represents all allocated land, policy requirements and general constraints that exist over the local area in map form. So, for example, Green Belt land, sites of special scientific interest, major development sites and so on might all be displayed in an Adopted Proposals Map. You can see a fantastic example of an Adopted Proposals Map on the South Cambridgeshire District Council website.

Optional Documents For A Local Development Framework

Planning A Build

Supplementary Planning Documents

Supplementary Planning Documents are for adding details, diagrams, pictures, or whatever is necessary to provide useful information in aid of the Development Planning Documents.

They might take the form of a design guide, an instructive case study of a similar planning policy, a brief on an area's special needs – whatever the local authority feels is required to help with the Development Planning Documents.

These require community involvement and a sustainability appraisal, so they are not 'tacked on' or surplus to requirements, and will have been carefully thought through by the local authority.

Local Development Orders

A Local Development Order is used to grant extended permitted development rights.

Area Action Plans

An Area Action Plan is a document that focuses on an area that's going through a big change (for example, a big regeneration project, a major shift in purpose) or is extremely sensitive to change (for example, an area with a lot of listed buildings).

Simplified Planning Zones

A Simplified Planning Zone is an area that the local authority believes will benefit from significant development. An example might be a run-down area of town with great potential, or a booming industrial area with a lot of under-developed or under-used land.

The Simplified Planning Zone automatically grants a particular planning permission within the specified area without requiring a planning application.

Any Other Development Plan Documents

These might be details and briefings related to how to treat particular kinds of development (light industrial, commercial) or they might be general restrictions on development.

How Does It Help Developers?

Previous versions of Local Plans were vastly more complex, inflexible and difficult to deal with. They placed the burden and responsibility of dealing with development and planning policy on the county council, rather than the authority best placed to understand the issues.

The all-powerful status of the county council naturally led to frustrating situations for developers and ordinary people alike. Even when an inspector's report arrived, it was not binding on the authority in question, and inspector's recommendations could and would be disregarded.

Under the new system, county councils are only responsible for Local Plans regarding usage of minerals and other niche development cases – cases where a local authority doesn't actually have enough of this same to make a valid plan. Local authorities now had the ability to create their own, more appropriate, plan. The introduction of LDFs was designed to make planning more flexible and faster than the old Local Plan system, with multiple separate documents governing each other (as we saw earlier). Inspector's reports were made binding on the local authority, to reduce confusion, wasted time, duplicated effort and the risk of flagrant abuse of the system by authorities.

Difficulty Of Implementation

In reality, implementation of the new policy was slow (although it has improved in the past couple of years). This was quite simply because local authorities are made up of people, who were suddenly being asked to implement a completely new way of doing things with multiple moving parts and an enormous amount of potential for disaster if they made a mistake. The amount of technical expertise and understanding of your local community required to create an LDF is enormous, on top of the sheer amount of effort that goes into creating them.

Many Core Strategy documents that were actually created were found to be unsound.

The LDF has been, for a long time, a difficult series of documents to actually create.

When Does The Local Development Framework Come Into Play?

The LDF comes into play during almost every development, at almost every stage in the process. The documents that make it up are so integral to the planning application and development process that it is genuinely shocking that some local authorities haven't yet produced their own.

If you have a specific question about your particular Local Development Framework, please get in touch and we'll see if we can help.

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