About planning, building and the environment

What we want to achieve

The Government believes that, whenever possible, planning decisions should be made at the local level. It is working to change the planning system so councils have the freedom to make their own planning decisions in the best interests of the local area.

To achieve this the Department is ending top-down control over local planning decisions and ensuring democratic accountability in the planning system. We want to ensure that in future people who make planning decisions are directly accountable to those whose lives are affected by them.

We want councils and communities to be at the heart of a planning system that helps deliver more homes and economic growth. We will introduce powerful new incentives that ensure communities benefit from development they welcome, and new homes are matched with new jobs and investment.

We want housebuilders and the construction industry to benefit from a new generation of sustainable development delivered through a planning system where they work hand-in-hand with local communities.

We want to overhaul current planning policy so councils and communities have more control and flexibility over planning decisions made through a faster and leaner planning system.


The planning system helps ensure that development takes place in a way that is economically, socially and environmentally sustainable. It also has a role to play in helping to cut carbon emissions, protect the natural environment and deliver energy security.

Local planning authorities prepare development plans which set the broad framework for acceptable development in their area. They are also responsible for assessing most applications for planning permission.

The Department oversees these plan-making and decision-taking functions.

Appeals against refusal of planning permission and inquiries are dealt with by the Planning Inspectorate (external link).

Many types of building work will require separate permission under building regulations.

There is a one-stop source of information on the Planning Portal (external link). It includes advice on planning permission, online applications and guidance on how the system works.

You can also find more information about planning applications and development plans on Directgov (external link).

What we are doing

We are radically reform the planning system to give neighbourhoods greater ability to shape development in their area.

We have published a simple and consolidated national planning policy framework covering all forms of development and setting out national economic, environmental and social priorities.

We are returning decision-making powers on housing and planning to local councils, including giving councils new powers to stop 'garden grabbing'.

We have announced the abolition of the Infrastructure Planning Commission and will replace it with an efficient and democratically accountable system that provides a fast-track process for major infrastructure projects.

We will maintain the Green Belt, Sites of Special Scientific Interest and other environmental protections, and create a new designation - similar to Sites of Special Scientific Interest - to protect green areas of particular importance to local communities.

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