Engagement in the planning and development process is an ongoing consideration for Government, local planning authorities and the development sector alike: a topic which is frequently discussed and debated and subject to continual change and development. 

Relative to public consultation, however, the way in which landowners engage with the extremely complex process of promoting land for development, is relatively low on the agenda. 

Live Local Plan Mintor

James Cordery, a development partner in Carter Jonas’ Oxford office, advises landowners on navigating the challenging process of strategic planning. Two years ago, in response to the complexities, he devised a pioneering tool which has revolutionised the way in which landowners engage with the system. 

The Live Local Plan Monitor is the product of James’ extensive experience in land promotion, and of his colleague Peter Canavan’s strategic planning expertise. It is an interactive online platform which analyses adopted local plans, emerging plans and consultations, and provides information on housing land supply - providing a level of insight not previously available. The platform contains a series of interactive web pages displaying local authority boundaries, key towns and cities and road networks in the context of information on the adopted local plan, emerging local plans (and the regulation stage reached), stated housing land supply and opportunities for submitting sites for development suitability assessment. With assistance from Carter Jonas, landowners can interpret this information to better understand the opportunities for development.

Since its launch in 2020, the Live Local Plan Monitor has extended to cover England and Wales, and has been accessed over 80,000 times by developers, landowners, central and local government, those responsible for major infrastructure projects and members of the public.
James comments, ‘When a landowner is considering releasing land for development, there is a lot to get to grips with. And the more they understand of the Local Plan process, the more questions they have. The aim is to cut through the noise and provide a consistent, up-to-date and easy-to-understand view of current and evolving development opportunities.

‘While the timing of releasing a piece of land for development will always be governed by landowners’ own priorities, it’s also in their interests to understand the strategic planning process and the best opportunities within it to promote land – which is not restricted to the call for sites stage, but influenced by issues such as housing supply and demand, the creation of new infrastructure and emerging local plan strategies (specifically concerning the spatial distribution of development).  Using the tool we are able to identify opportunities regardless of stage in the plan-making cycle.

‘Furthermore, the path of a Local Plan’s progression does not always run smoothly and political and procedural events can create hurdles.  A recent example is Boris Johnson’s comment to the Conservative Party Conference last autumn in which he rallied against greenfield development, referring to the ‘constant anxiety’ of those living in the Homes Counties over their ‘immemorial view of chalk downland’ being ‘desecrated by ugly new homes’. Although civil servants were quick to issue ‘clarifying statements’ stating that there was no change in policy, our monitoring showed that many Local Plans were suddenly halted as a result.

The Live Local Plan Monitor has the ability to throw a spotlight on various disruptions and inconsistencies, providing a channel of communication which is rarely available to landowners through dialogue with their local authority. 

Another valuable aspect of the tool is its glossary – a simple ‘jargon buster’ which has been written from the landowner’ point of view to clarify strategic planning. As James explains, ‘Local Plans are invariably full of acronyms and terms which are specific to the world of planning. Just as with the process itself, it can be difficult to get an immediate understanding of this terminology.’ Essentially, the Live Local Plan Monitor exists to benefit transparency in the process. 

Transparency in the Local Plan Process

The Local Plan process would undoubtedly be improved upon if all stakeholders – not only landowners, but planning committee members and local residents too had a better understanding of the process, and Live Local Plan Monitor’s glossary provides that opportunity. 

Transparency is never more important that at times of change,’ say James. ‘Currently there’s a lot of uncertainty surrounding planning policy – from the radical 2020 Planning White Paper which promised a wholescale reform of strategic planning, to suggestions by ministers in November that the call for sites system should be changed, and now proposals in the Levelling Up White Paper that Local Plans are made ‘shorter and simpler’. Landowners are faced with a constantly shifting sands, which further obfuscates the timing of land promotion.

Uncertainty in the system extends to the possibility of local government reorganisation – increased devolution as proposed in the Levelling Up White Paper, and potential changes to the two-tier system. It is currently unknown to what extent the proposals in the Planning White Paper will be adopted, but appears more likely that relative minor tweaks will be implemented through a Levelling Up Act. Furthermore changes to housing targets and the Standard Methodology may be introduced. 

One certainty is that future changes will place greater emphasis on speed of Local Plan preparation. This will result in a period of intense activity and multiple plan reviews. Accordingly it is essential that landowners have the very best up-to-date and relevant information, at the touch of a button.

@ James Cordery
James Cordery
01865 404478 email me about James

James is a member of the southern planning and development team working out of the Oxford office. He assists in all matters associated with strategic and immediate development land opportunities and helps private and public sector clients in the delivery of development projects across the south of England.

I can provide advice on:

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