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LDF advice for local planning authorities

CABE held 37 local development framework (LDF) workshops with local authorities between 2007 and 2010 to explore how design was being embedded in their emerging core strategies.

At each workshop a panel of independent experts provided peer support, critical friend feedback, and discussion and debate about place-making through LDFs. We worked with planners from 105 local authorities and reviewed 98 core strategies.

These discussions led to the following short advice notes for local authorities:

This work supplements the advice in Planning for places: delivering good design through core strategies.

Key advice from the workshops

  1. Understand context and the larger than local issues – where does the place sit in the wider economy and pattern of movement, and can this be influenced or exploited?
  2. Think about how the place looks and works, what sort of place is wanted in the future, what needs to be done to deliver it and who will be responsible.
  3. Think about the way movement works in the area, not just the distribution of land uses.
  4. Contextualise and articulate the reasons for growth. Make sure the plan explains the implications for neighbourhoods, including communities neighbouring the plan area.
  5. Make sure all the potential implications of change are discussed and explained, not just the negative, but how change can help improve existing problems.
  6. If development options are presented, make sure they are real options and not just a Hobson’s choice.
  7. There must be a clear ‘story of change’ for each of the settlements. Don’t imagine it will just appear later from site specific briefings or development management.
  8. Be careful in the use of images – they will imply the sort of place that is intended to be created as well as the sort of place it is at present.
  9. Try to map ideas and assessments not just land use and statistics.  
  10. Commit to quality – more of the same is not transformational.

Three simple tests

  1. The spatiality test
    If a policy cannot be mapped, think twice about putting it into the plan.
  2. The name test
    If the name of the place or local authority were removed from the vision, would anyone else know where it was meant to be for?
  3. The clarity test
    If the vision is strong and the strategy clear, very few development control policies should be needed.

What panel members said

  • “You have the passion and the knowledge in your head. We’ve heard it today and now it just needs to be written down.”
  • “The focus should be on places, not on themes and housing numbers.”
  • “If you think the main issue is deciding which sites to allocate for which uses you are stuck in old land use thinking.  Start with bigger questions like ‘what should this place be like in the future’ and ‘how do we harness investment and guide developers to make the whole place work better’.”
  •  “Unless you’ve got some clearer direction in here, you won’t get what you want.
  • So many of the excellent plans we have reviewed still fail to address their more challenged places, especially edge of town degraded housing estates. A good spatial plan covers both areas of new housing and the regeneration of existing areas.”
  • “Locally specific is your game – you’ve done the all the hard work and have the evidence, you now need to decide what’s special and what you want.”
  • “In terms of the core strategy being used for making planning decisions, it’s absolutely critical that the story weaves its way through with local variations.”
  • “I didn’t get a feel of the scale of change in the scenarios – in terms of the amount that’s going to happen.”
  •  “’Transformational economic hub’? It’s a town!”
  •  “How will you know when your objectives have been achieved? What are the specific measurable outcomes you want from the plan?”
  •  “If your vision is so flexible that this housing could either be urban development at the town centre or green field estates on the periphery then do you actually have a vision at all?”
  • “Excite people through the communication methods used in the consultation.”
  • “Find the best buildings and places and put in some pictures of them. Use them to inspire people and set the standard for new development.”
  • “The best plans are produced by someone who can write and someone who can draw, talking to each other.”
  • Local planners are working their socks off to try and make good plans for their places, but too many councils are failing to harness and support their strategic, corporate role – surely now more important than ever.” 
  • “Believe in your understanding of the area and your ability as planners. Did you go into the job thinking you would help create and maintain great places or to fulfil process targets and requirements? That does not mean to say you can ignore due process, but try not to forget what you are trying to do.”