Local authorities make decisions about development on the basis of planning policy.
District and borough councils develop and use Local Plans to make decisions about planning. These plans are designed to allow councils to ensure that development contributes towards their area’s specific needs, priorities and objectives. Any development proposals must comply with policies set out in each council's Local Plan.
With the introduction of new national planning policy (the National Planning Policy Framework) in 2011 which saw the old system of Local Development Frameworks scrapped (see recent changes below), most local authorities in Hertfordshire are still working on their Local Plans. Further public consultation rounds are expected. You can check the progress that has been made by your district or borough council through their website.
The following local authorities have produced core strategies for their Local Plans:
- Dacorum Borough Council
- Hertsmere Borough Council
- Three Rivers District Council
- Watford Borough Council
- London Borough of Barnet
- London Borough of Enfield
- London Borough of Harrow
- London Borough of Hillingdon
The Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 required local authorities to compile a ‘Local Development Framework’ (LDF) for their area, to replace previous district local plans. Relatively few local authorities had yet adopted a Local Development Framework when the government's new planning framework, the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), was published in March 2011. A copy of the NPPF is available here. This new framework replaced the preceding suite of planning policy statements and guidance notes, and responded to the government’s wish to simplify the planning system.
The NPPF again altered the requirements on local authorities, and reverted to the terminology of ‘local plan’. As part of the government’s wider reforms of the planning system, the Localism Act 2010 abolished Regional Spatial Strategies and the associated housing targets, transferring powers to local authorities, and introduced the concept of neighbourhood planning, to which local authorities need to respond in their Local Plans.
Planning decisions in local authorities without an up-to-date Local Plan are made based on existing policies (‘saved policies’ from previous district local plans) and the National Planning Policy Framework.
The Localism Act grants powers to parish councils and neighbourhood forums in unparished areas to put together a Neighbourhood Plan for their parish or neighbourhood. Neighbourhood plans must conform with Local Plans and the NPPF.
Neighbourhood Plans are able to propose more development, but cannot reduce the amount of development in the area from that agreed in the Local Plan.
Neighbourhood Plans can however guide where this development is located and how it is achieved. They can give parishes and neighbourhood forums the power to form and shape development. For instance, a Neighbourhood Plan may require a higher proportion of affordable housing, or enable development to be directed to less valued sites instead of important wildlife sites or community land.
Government planning policy and guidance
National planning policy is supported by planning guidance, which explains further and gives clarity to planning policy, helping local planning authorities and developers to interpret policy and understand government and legal requirements. The government Planning Practice Guidance can be accessed alongside the National Planning Policy Framework here. The guidance includes a section on the Natural Environment, as well as guidance on Environmental Impact Assessment, light pollution, climate change and open space which may have relevance to wildlife interests.