Each local planning authority is required by the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 to prepare a development plan for its area. Although the structure and content of plans have been amended, the basic principle remains the same.

The plan should set out a strategic vision for the area and be subject to an environmental assessment.

Environmental assessment is a process that ensures significant environmental effects arising from policies, plans and programmes are:

  • identified;
  • assessed;
  • reduced;
  • communicated to decision-makers; and
  • monitored.

It also gives you a chance to have your say.

The plan also contains local policies for land use. Certain areas are selected for future uses. These local policies consider how those uses should look, operate and interact with the environment are set out in the plan.

When a local planning authority receives an application, the first aspect it should consider is whether or not the development follows the development plan. If it would, then normally the application would be approved – although other considerations, such as representations from the public on planning issues, may lead the authority to decide otherwise.

You should be able to view your local planning authority’s development plan, on the authority’s website.

Check out the nidirect website for more information about how development plans set out how an area should look in the future by deciding the type and scale of development and where buildings should be allowed.