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Policy development and consultation

This page shows in outline how we create local planning policy, and the important role that consultation has in this process. 

We make decisions on planning applications using national and local planning policy. National policy is statutory, or written into law, while local policy is a mix of statutory and non-statutory elements.

The three elements of local planning policy
  • Core statutory documents, which together make the Development Plan for our area (DPDs), and will apply to all new development proposals.

  • Supplementary Planning Documents (SPDs), which refer to particular topics within local planning, such as agricultural building, sustainability, archaeology or listed buildings. These documents are non-statutory, but we can use them as a basis to assess planning applications.

  • Informal guidance notes, which may be useful to assist in developing your proposal, but which we won't use on their own as a justification for granting or refusing a planning permission. 

As a Local Planning Authority, we are responsible for developing, monitoring and reviewing the local policy for our area. There are lots of opportunities to influence planning policy development, as well as other important local issues, through the process of consultation. At any one time, we are usually running several public consultations, to give local people a chance to understand and take part in local decision making. 

View current B&NES consultations

How we develop policy documents

The chart below shows a summary of how we create Development Plan documents (DPDs), the most important local policy documents for future development and deciding planning applications, and the opportunities for you to have your say.

For more detail on how you can be involved in the development of policy, and how we run the stages of the process, view our Neighbourhood Planning Protocol.

  1. Step 1

    Before we start to draft a new policy plan, we do some research to discover what issues we need to focus on, and to explore the options that we might need to consider. We may use one or more consultations to gather evidence on issues, such as the climate emergency or local housing needs, and options available to solve the problem, such as more energy efficient construction, or development policies geared towards affordable housing .

    For many consultations, there are 'statutory consultees' who we must contact. These may include the following:

    • Bodies which are qualified to speak for local people, such as town or parish councils
    • National agencies with specialist expertise, like English Heritage or the Civil Aviation Authority
    • Services which will be affected by new developments, such as healthcare, energy and telecoms providers 

    There may also be separate surveys and consultation periods for the public to respond.

  2. Step 2

    1. At this stage, we will use the feedback from the issues and options phase, to identify one or more 'preferred' options. These will be presented for a consultation period of six weeks. We will talk to statutory and non-statutory consultees and make an effort to secure the involvement of the local community and 'target groups', such as young people, business owners or people with disabilities. We will then draft our policy, based on this option.

  3. Step 3

    Taking into account the feedback from stage 2, we prepare a proposed plan for submission to the Secretary of State. There is another six-week period when we publish the document, and invite people to comment on its 'soundness'. This means identifying that it is based on a clear planning strategy, backed up by socio-economic research, and takes account of local needs and concerns. 

    We aim to get opinions from a wide range of 'target groups', including local residents, children and young people, people with disabilities, faith, language and minority ethnic groups, small businesses and rural communities. To do this, we use tools such as presentations, meetings, group discussions, workshops, exhibitions and surveys.

    Using feedback from this process, we finalise our draft policy document, ready for presentation to the Secretary of State.

  4. Step 4

    The Planning Inspectorate carries out examinations of local plans, on behalf of the Secretary of State.

    A Planning Inspector will examine the draft policy document, decide if it is 'sound', and consider any comments that consultees have made on the proposal. They will then make any recommendations for necessary changes. Anyone who has made a comment or registered an interest in the development of the document will receive a notification of the Inspector's decisions.

  5. Step 5

    If necessary, we will make changes which the Planning Inspector has recommended. Then, after three months have passed, the document is officially adopted. After this time, it is not possible to change the document without repeating the whole policy development process.

    While a policy document is in force, we will regularly monitor how it is implemented and will publish annual monitoring reports on this. You can also ask to see the evidence we have used as a basis for our policy documents, by emailing 

Process for SPDs and informal planning guidance notes

We follow a shorter, fast-track process for the adoption of SPDs and other planning policy guidance, as follows:

  • First, we have an informal consultation and evidence gathering phase. We will consult statutory consultees and the public, using the same methods as for DPDs at stage 3, above.
  • We then have a formal consultation period of a minimum of four weeks. We will publish a report on the feedback from the informal consultation, and our responses to issues raised.
  • We will then formally adopt the SPD or guidance note. We will notify anyone who made written comments on the document or expressed an interest, so they can review the final version of the document.