Frequently Asked Questions
Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about the Local Plan and the Examination process can be found here.
Why do we have to have a Local Plan?
If we don’t have an up-to-date Local Plan, it is much harder for us to refuse planning permission for sites that, if developed, could harm some of the Borough’s most important spaces. We could also be subject to the Government stepping in and writing a Local Plan for us with little say in the process ourselves. We therefore want to be able to make decisions locally and for local people to have full involvement in the process to provide a Plan which delivers homes and employment areas that we need in the most suitable places.
Who approves the Local Plan?
The draft Local Plan was submitted to the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Homes and Communities for independent inspection on Friday 25 November 2022. The examination will be carried out by an independent Planning Inspector on behalf of the Government. The Inspector examines the Plan to determine if it is ‘sound’. The Council and its councillors decide whether to approve the plan following the Inspector’s decision. If approved, the Plan would be adopted, becomes the development plan document for the Borough and is used to guide decision-making in respect of directing development and granting or refusing planning applications.
What stage of the Local Plan are we at?
The Issues and Options consultation held in May/June 2018 in which we consulted on four options to meet the Borough’s needs.
We consulted on the Preferred Options stage of the Local Plan from November 2019 to January 2020. This identified the preferred policies and draft site allocations to guide future development in Spelthorne.
We consulted on the Pre-submission Spelthorne Local Plan 2022 – 2037, the final draft of the Local Plan (Regulation 19 consultation) over a 14-week period (15 June – 21 September 2022).
We submitted the Pre-submission Spelthorne Local Plan to the Planning Inspectorate for examination by an independent Inspector on 25 November 2022. Any proposed changes to the final draft Local Plan are submitted alongside the Plan for the Planning Inspector to decide which are appropriate.
What are the next stages of the Local Plan process?
The starting point for a Local Plan examination is the assumption that the Council has submitted what it considers to be a sound plan. The plan is positively prepared, based on a strategy which seeks to meet objectively assessed development and infrastructure requirements; is justified by robust evidence; can be delivered; and is consistent with national policy. The Pre-Submission Publication version of the Spelthorne Local Plan is considered to meet the test of soundness and is therefore a step closer to examination and eventual adoption.
The Examination will be a series of open public sessions which members of the public can attend and observe. At the Examination, officers and expert consultants appointed by the Council will be questioned by the inspector on how the Local Plan meets the tests of soundness. It is usual for developers and landowners to attend, often legally represented by barristers, to speak in favour of or oppose elements of the plan. The Council will also be represented by a barrister. There are often complex legal and technical points to be made and defended.
Members of the public and residents’ associations who make representations during the Regulation 19 consultation will be asked if they wish to appear at the Examination in person and speak to the Planning Inspector directly on issues of importance to them.
Further information about the examination process can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/local-plans
Following the Examination, the inspector will issue a report to set out whether the plan can be recommended for adoption and if not, what needs to be changed in order to be found sound.
Once this has taken place, all Members of the Council will be asked to adopt the plan and the SDF at a formal meeting. If adopted, the policies in the Local Plan and the Staines Development Framework will carry full weight and supersede former policies in older documents.
How much weight can be given to Local Plan policies before they are adopted?
Weight is the term used to explain whether a policy can be used in decision-making and to what degree as there is always a balance between the benefits and disadvantages of a development. Full weight can only be given once both documents have been adopted by the Council (anticipated Summer 2023). Until then, only very limited weight can be given in deciding planning applications. The existing Core Strategy and Development Management DPD 2009 remains our current Local Plan until then, although more recent national policy may supersede elements of it. Weight to policies and guidance will increase as we take the documents through the formal submission and examination stages with the Planning Inspectorate, who will be assessing whether our Local Plan should be adopted, but much depends on whether there are objections to the policies within it. For example, a policy that has received no objections at the Regulation 19 consultation can be given more weight than a policy that received lots of objections. This will need to be considered on a case by case basis on applications and for the larger schemes during this period we will set out how much weight can be given to specific policies at the time a decision is made.
Answers to more FAQ’s relating to the preparation of the Local Plan can be found on the Council’s website.