Planning, building and the environment

The planning system

The planning system helps to ensure that development takes place in the public interest, in economically, socially and environmentally sustainable ways. It has a major impact on how local neighbourhoods look, feel and function. It also has a role to play in helping to cut carbon emissions, protect the natural environment and deliver energy security.


The core elements of the planning system are development plan-making and development management. These activities are primarily undertaken at the local level.

Local planning authorities prepare development plans, through consultation with local communities, which set the broad framework for acceptable development in their area.

Authorities are also responsible for development management. This includes statutory requirements on publicising, consulting on and determining most applications for planning permission, taking into account the opinions of local people and others. They also operate allied discretionary services including pre-application advice to prospective developers and enforcement against breaches of planning legislation.

Appeals against refusal of planning permission or failure to determine planning applications are dealt with by the Planning Inspectorate (external link).

The Department for Communities and Local Government supports plan-making and development management, principally through the provision of planning legislation, national planning policy and guidance.

The Secretary of State has the power to 'call in' planning applications for determination rather than letting the local authority decide (for example, if they conflict with national policies on important matters). Planning appeals can be 'recovered' for decision by Ministers, for similar reasons.

The National Planning Policy Framework

The National Planning Policy Framework was published on 27 March 2012. This is a key part of our reforms to make the planning system less complex and more accessible, and to promote sustainable growth. The National Planning Policy Framework sets out the Government's planning policies for England and how these are expected to be applied.

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