Planning basics

Planning basics
Photo by David McBee:

Why is 'planning' important?

The location, design and construction of new buildings has a huge influence on our greenhouse gas emissions as a nation – the sustainability of the materials used, how the buildings are powered, and whether the development is supported by public transport and active travel routes are all important factors.

Housing and commercial development in the UK is governed by a complex set of national and local plans and policies which take years to be created and adopted. Every individual planning application has to be looked at in the context of these. Local Plans identify possible locations for building, which many people only realise has happened when a developer starts taking an interest in a location which happens to be on their doorstep.  By this time it can be hard to object to the proposed development successfully.  On the other hand, challenges to development on plots of land not included within the adopted Plans may have more chance of success.

Core components of the planning system
The National Planning Policy Framework sets out the government's planning policies for England and how these are expected to be applied.
National Planning Practice Guidance - technical guidance for local authorities

Local planning policies have to be aligned to national policies.  If local policies were to set a higher standard than the national framework, councils are likely to face challenges from developers, which would be expensive to defend. Lack of explicit national guidance can be why councils struggle to insist on, for example, renewable energy for all new buildings.

In West Northamptonshire the key documents are:

  • West Northamptonshire Joint Core Strategy (JCS), or Part 1 Plan.  This sets out the vision and objectives for West Northamptonshire up to 2029, including strategic policies. Adopted in 2014; policies within the JCS were reviewed in 2019.
  • Part 2 Local Plans - more detailed planning policies and site allocations for South Northamptonshire (adopted 2020), Daventry (adopted 2020) and Northampton (adopted 1997, new version currently in development).  These areas merged to become West Northamptonshire when the unitary authority was created.

Very locally
Neighbourhood Plans – these are not binding but set out the preferences of local residents and inform planning decisions for villages and neighbourhoods.  It is up to local communities to decide whether to have a neighbourhood plan.

Links to the national and local plans are at the bottom of this article – to find out if there is a Neighbourhood Plan for your community the best place to start is your Parish or Town Council.

What can I do to influence development in my area?

  • Keep an eye out for public consultations on local plans and planning strategies, make sure you respond and encourage others to do the same
  • If there is no neighbourhood plan in your area, consider getting together with other residents to develop one
  • If you comment on specific planning applications, keep your comments factual and try to highlight where the application is or is not in line with planning rules.  Links below for more help with determining this.
Useful links:

National and local plans and policies

West Northamptonshire Council consultations:

More information and guidance on planning: