In terms of how local plans are produced, authorities preparing local plans should assess future needs and opportunities for their area, explore and identify options for addressing these, and then set out a preferred approach (except where this has already been dealt with through a spatial development strategy). This involves gathering evidence, carrying out a Sustainability Appraisal to inform the preparation of local plans and effective engagement and consultation with local communities, businesses and other interested parties.
There is considerable flexibility open to local planning authorities in how they carry out the initial stages of local plan production, provided they comply with the specific requirements in regulation 18 of the Town and Country Planning (Local Planning) (England) Regulations 2012, (‘the Local Plan Regulations’) on consultation, and with the commitments in their Statement of Community Involvement. It is important to make clear how any consultation fits within the wider local plan process.
Local planning authorities must make available each of the proposed submission documents that they intend to submit to the Planning Inspectorate for examination to enable representations to come forward that can be considered at examination, under regulation 19 of the the Local Plan Regulations.
Paragraph 11 of the National Planning Policy Framework indicates that Local Plans should reflect the presumption in favour of sustainable development. This should be done by identifying and providing for objectively assessed needs and by indicating how the presumption will be applied locally. However, there is no need for a plan to directly replicate the wording in paragraph 11 in a policy.