Last month the Government launched a new planning expert panel to consider how to simplify the making of local plans. The Local Plans Expert Group will consider what reforms and measures could help streamline the process for producing local plans. The eight-member Group, chaired by John Rhodes of planning consultants Quod, has a broad remit, to "cover any aspect of the Local Plan-making process that they feel is relevant, calling on experts in the field as they see fit". The Group has now issued a call for evidence from the planning and property industry, local government and other stakeholders to assist its consideration of the key issues.

Streamlining the length and process of local plans and speeding up the procedure for implementing or amending a local plan was identified as a key government priority in HM Treasury's 'Fixing the Foundations' productivity report published in July 2015. The Government is concerned that, despite the requirement for all local authorities to produce a local plan setting out the development aims for their area, more than a third have yet to adopt plans and nearly 20% have not published a plan at all.

The launch of the Local Plans Expert Group's review of local plan-making comes hot on the heels of the Government's announcement that councils have until early 2017 to produce local plans, failing which, the Government will intervene to arrange for a local plan to be written.

The Group has identified a number of key issues on which they are inviting views:

  1. content of local plans - including the requirements of the National Planning Policy Framework, plan period, one plan or several;
  2. local plan preparation process - could procedures be changed enabling preparation of plans to be better and quicker;
  3. agreeing strategic requirements - including cross-boundary requirements;
  4. implementation - impediments to comprehensive and timely local plan coverage; and
  5. observations about how the system is working and the need for change.

The call for evidence is open until 23 October 2015 and further details can be found here.