Town and Country Planning, now commonly referred to as Spatial Planning, is the legal and administrative system which aims to resolve the conflicting demands for the use and development of land and buildings. The legal framework consists principally of the Town & Country Planning Act 1990 (most recently amended by the Planning & Compulsory Purchase Act 2004) and the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990, together with a range of statutory regulations covering matters such as administrative processes, ‘permitted development rights’ and environmental impact assessment. Where the precise meaning, or application, of the statutes is questioned then the courts are often involved in interpreting the law, adding further to the legal background that has to be taken account of by all local planning authorities.
The government sets out national planning policies and guidance in a range of guidance notes or statements. National policies have to be taken account of by planning authorities where they are relevant to, for example, the formulation of policy or the determination of an application. All decisions in respect of planning applications are, by law, plan-led. That is they must be determined in accordance with the policies set out in the Development Plan, unless material considerations, such as national policy, indicate otherwise.
The Development Plan for the National Park currently consists of the Devon Structure Plan, saved policies of the Local Plan and the Core Strategy of the Local Development Framework. The new planning system, established by the Planning & Compulsory Purchase Act 2004, will result in the Structure Plan and Local Plan being fully replaced by the Regional Spatial Strategy and the Local Development Framework (see section on Forward Planning).
The National Park Authority is the sole local planning authority for the and therefore has to make decisions on all planning applications within its area (see section on Development Management). It also works closely with neighbouring authorities where there are ‘cross-boundary issues’ or where it objects to a development which is outside the National Park but is likely to have an adverse impact on the special qualities of the area.