Town and country planning in the United Kingdom

Town and country planning in the United Kingdom

:"See Development control in the United Kingdom for an explanation of how planning control is exercised in the UK."

Town and Country Planning is the land use planning system by which governments seek to maintain a balance between economic development and environmental quality. Each country of the United Kingdom has its own distinct planning system with responsibility for town and country planning devolved to the Northern Ireland Assembly, the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly.

The essential framework for the system was set in the Town and Country Planning Act 1947, with a critical addition in 1955 of green belts, which were introduced via a Government Circular. The system has not altered much since the Town and Country Planning Act 1947, which repealed all previous legislation, including the first Housing and Town Planning Act 1909, law to which there followed: Housing and Town Planning Act 1919, Town Planning Act 1925 and Town and Country Planning Act 1932.

Current planning legislation for England and Wales is consolidated in the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (TCPA 1990). Associated with this principal Act are three further Acts related to planning. These four acts were defined as the Planning Acts. Parts of these Acts have been replaced or amended by the provisions of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004, which received Royal Assent on 13 May 2004.

The basic planning law of Northern Ireland is contained in the Planning (Northern Ireland) Order 1991

The relevant Act for Scotland is the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997.


The roots of the UK town and country planning systems, created in the immediate post-war years, lie in concerns developed over the previous half century in response to industrialisation and urbanisation. The particular concerns were pollution, urban sprawl and ribbon development. These concerns were expressed through the work of thinkers such as Ebenezer Howard and the philanthropic actions of industrialists such as the Lever Brothers and the Cadbury family.

By the outbreak of the second world war, thinking was sufficiently advanced that, even during the war a series of Royal commissions looked at the problems of urban planning and development control.

These included:
* the Barlow Commission (1940) into the distribution of industrial population,
* the Scott Committee into rural land use (1941)
* the Uthwatt Committee into compensation and betterment (1942)
* (later) the Reith Report into New Towns (1947).

Also, Patrick Abercrombie developed a plan for the reconstruction of London, which envisaged moving 1.5 million people from London to new and expanded towns.

The culmination of this intellectual effort were:

*The New Towns Act 1946 and
*The Town and Country Planning Act 1947.

The 1947 Act in effect nationalised the right to develop land, requiring all proposals, excepting a small number of specific exclusions, to secure planning permission from their local authority (although provision exists to appeal against refusal).

The Act - the essential nature of which is unchanged - required local authorities to develop Local Plans or Unitary Development Plans to outline what kind of development would be permitted where and to mark special areas on Local Plan Maps. It did not introduce a formal system of zoning as used in the USA. Counties were expected to develop Structure Plans which set broad targets for the wider area. Structure Plans were always problematic and were often in the process of being replaced by the time they were formally adopted.

The planning system received a number of alterations consolidated in the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (TCPA 1990). Section 106 substantially re-enacted Section 52 from the former Act, settling the concept of agreements (known as "planning obligation agreements" or more commonly "Section 106 agreements") under which the developer is subject to detailed arrangements and restrictions beyond those which a planning condition could impose, or by which he makes agreed financial contributions beyond the immediate building works in order to offset the external effects of development on the local community. Notably though this was soon amended to allow a developer to impose upon himself unilateral obligations in order to remove objections to his receiving planning permission; in this way the planning authority cannot block a permission by failing to negotiate.

Associated with this principal Act were three further Acts related to planning, namely, The Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990, the Planning (Hazardous Substances) Act 1990, and the Planning (Consequential Provisions) Act 1990. These four Acts were referred to as the Planning Acts. Almost immediately after parliament passed these Acts, the government had further thoughts on the control of land development which led to the Planning and Compensation Act 1991 which rewrote, with important alterations many of the provisions of the Planning Acts.

The Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 resulted in a number of substantial changes to the English Development Plan system. It did away with both Structure Plans and Local Plans in favour of Local Development Frameworks (LDFs), which are made up a number of Local Development Documents (LDDs) and Supplementary Planning Documents (SPDs). The Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS), which is produced by Regional Assemblies in England, replaces the Structure Plan as the strategic planning document (i.e. it is the RSS which will set targets for housing and employment development within each district in a Region in the future). A variation on this approach exists in Wales.

Local Authorities are also now required to produce Local Development Schemes (LDS) - which outline the work the LDDs/SPDs they intend to produce over a three year period, and Statements of Community Involvement (SCI) which outline how the Council will involve the local community. All LDDs and SPDs also have to be accompanied by a Sustainability Appraisal (SA) and a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA). The SEA is a requirement under European Union laws. Planning Policy Guidance Notes are also being gradually replaced by Planning Policy Statements.

Minor variations were allowed to planning permissions, recognising that the nature of the information provided for planning permission was not always so detailed as to allow the immediate construction of a building. Working drawings would be required first and architects would often make small changes to accommodate the technical requirements of the building. Buildings might also be changed on site to overcome unforeseen problems. The legality of minor amendments was challenged in 2006 and the advice to many local authorities is that any variation to a planning permission should require planning approval.

On-line access

Historically planning applications were submitted in paper form to designated Council offices and displayed for a statutory period at public libraries or offices. In December 1995 the London Borough of Wandsworth created a website which published electronic images of documents associated with planning applications. This use of web technology greatly improved the ease of access to application-related documents for all participants in the planning process. Within ten years, most planning authorities within the UK had followed suit. [ [ Pendleton Survey of web access to planning applications] ] This has been facilitated through the widespread use of commercial off-the-shelf software packages in local authorities that take visitors through a similar process. [ [ CAPS UNI-form] a common COTS application that links back office systems to the web] Other access methods now include routing enquiries through a centrally-hosted public or privately hosted website, such as UKPlanning [ [ UK Planning] access to local authority planning appling applications] or the national Planning Portal. [ [ Planning Portal] UK Government's online planning and building site] .

Use classes

The requirement to obtain planning permission extends not only to new construction, but also in substantive changes of use of a property. There are various 'use classes', and change of use to a different use class generally requires Planning permission.

The main classes (excluding Scotland, which has a separate Use Classes Order) are:

*A1: shops
*A2: financial and professional services
*A3: restaurants and cafés
*A4: drinking establishments ["Drinking establishment" does not specifically refer to alcoholic drinks]
*A5: hot food takeaways

*B1: businesses (offices, light industry)
*B2: general industrial
*B8: storage and distribution

*C1: hotels
*C2: residential institutions
*C3: dwellinghouses

*D1: non-residential institutions (schools, libraries, surgeries)
*D2: assembly and leisure (cinemas, swimming baths, gymnasiums)

Classes A3 to A5 were formed recently by a split of the previous A3 class 'Food and Drink', though this split was not effected in Wales; jurisdiction over secondary planning legislation being by then a matter for the Assembly.

Various uses are considered to be "sui generis", meaning that they are considered to be a use class in themselves, and not part of an existing use class. These specifically include:

*amusement arcades
*petrol stations
*car dealerships
*taxi/car rental firm
*warehouse clubs


An applicant may appeal against a refusal of planning permission. (A neighbour who objects to an application has no right of apppeal.) Appeal is:

*In England, to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.
*In Northern Ireland, to the Planning Appeals Commission.
*In Scotland, to the Scottish Government; Directorate for Planning & Environmental Appeals.
*In Wales, to the Assembly.

Effectively in the England, Scotland and Wales the appeal is heard by a planning inspectorate. There has often been talk of making the inspectors independent of government ministers, as in Northern Ireland.

Elements of the modern system

*Development Control
* The Town and Country Planning (Control of Advertisements) (England) Regulations 2007
*Department for Communities and Local Government
*Planning Inspectorate
*Local Planning Authority
*Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004
*Town and Country Planning Act 1990
*Planning Acts
*Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995
*Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987
*Planning Policy Guidance Notes
*Planning Policy Statements
*Design and access statement

National variants

*Northern Ireland


The apparent aim of recent reforms to the planning system was to simplify and speed up the production of Plans. The system has not been in place long enough to determine if this is the case, though the increase in the number, type and length of documents an authority is required to produce (and the sheer number of new acronyms that have been introduced) would imply that these aims will not be achieved.Fact|date=February 2007 The financial costs and time delays associated with the new system are also significant and the 2004 report by Barker on the planning system suggested some of the requirements were unnecessary and delaying the delivery of sustainable and social housing, and recommended early revisions to the regulations. [ [ Barker Review of Housing Supply - Final Report and Recommendations] HM Treasury] HM Treasury noted the recommendation to redirect a portion of Section 106 financial contributions as a "planning gain supplment"" for wider community needs and has responded by an Act of Parliament that will levy "a tax on the increase in the value of land resulting from the grant of permission for development". [ [ Planning-gain Supplement (Preparations) Bill 2006-07] Chancellor of the Exchequer, Her Majesty's Treasury]

*Planning Green Paper
*Planning white paper (Scotland): Modernising the planning system


ee also

*Urban Planning
*Landscape planning
*Regional planning
*Royal Town Planning Institute
*Town and Country Planning Association
*Building Regulations

External links

* [ The Planning Portal - the UK government's online planning and building regulations resource]
* [ Department for Communities and Local Government (England)]
* [ Scottish Executive - Planning and Building]
* [ Scottish Executive Inquiry Reporters Unit]
* [ The Planning Service (Northern Ireland)]
* [ Planning Appeals Commission (Northern Ireland)]
* [ Planning Inspectorate (England)]
* [ Planning Inspectorate (Wales)]
* [ Yr Arolygiaeth Gynllunio (Cymru)]
* [ Advisory Panel on Standards for the Planning Inspectorate (APOS)]
* [ UKPlanning (IDOX plc)]
* [ The Construction Centre - List of all Planning departments in the UK]

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