Development plan

Development plan

A development plan is an aspect of town and country planning in the United Kingdom comprising a set of documents that set out the local authority's policies and proposals for the development and use of land in their area. The development plan guides and informs day-to-day decisions as to whether or not planning permission should be granted, under the system known as development control. In order to ensure that these decisions are rational and consistent, they must be considered against the development plan adopted by the authority, after public consultation and having proper regard for other material factors.

Legislation (Section 54A of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990) requires that decisions made should be in accordance with the development plan unless material considerations indicate otherwise. Although development plans do not have to be rigidly adhered to, they provide a firm basis for rational and consistent planning decisions.


The development plan may contain a number of documents: Counties and most non-metropolitan unitary districts are covered by structure plans (in which the county, national park or unitary authority set out key strategic policies as a framework for local planning) and local plans (in which district councils and national park authorities set out more detailed policies to guide development in their areas, including proposals for specific sites). Structure plans may in some cases be prepared on a joint basis between two or more authorities (e.g. a county and a unitary authority or a national park).

County, national park and some unitary authorities also prepare minerals and waste local plans are also deemed to be local plans.

In London and the metropolitan areas, and in a few non-metropolitan unitary areas, authorities produce unitary development plans (UDPs), which combine the functions of structure and local plans and include minerals and waste policies.

Local plans and UDPs identify particular areas as suitable for housing, industry, retail or other uses, and set out the policies which the authority proposes to apply in deciding whether or not development will be permitted. The preparation of Local Plans and UDPs gives the community the opportunity to influence the detailed policies and specific proposals for the future development and use of land in their area. Because the plan forms the statutory basis for planning decisions, local people are involved in its preparation.

Current practice

The Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 has introduced a number of additional documents that will eventually supersede those mentioned above. These include:


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