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.

What we are doing

The Government has promised to radical reform the planning system to give neighbourhoods far more ability to determine the shape of the places in which their inhabitants live.

We have also given councils new powers to stop 'garden grabbing', and made a statement on new, positive planning principles for supporting the creation of new free schools through the planning system.

Further reforms will be announced, for example on how we propose to take forward the Government's proposal for a simple and consolidated national planning policy framework, and the implications that will have for specific areas of planning policy.

In the mean time, current national policy and guidance are set out in a range of documents including planning policy statements, planning policy guidance, circulars and 'Dear Chief Planning Officer' letters. Guidance on a variety of topics is also available.

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