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Guildford Borough Council

Guidance on legal compliance, soundness and the Duty to cooperate.

Local Plans set planning policies in local authority areas and form the starting point when deciding planning applications. An independent planning inspector must examine the ‘soundness’ of plans through an Examination, which can include public meetings called ‘hearings’. 

The process of producing a Local Plan should fully involve everyone who has an interest in the document and at the end of the process they should have had the chance to comment and, where appropriate, appear at any relevant hearing sessions of the Examination to present their case.

In summary, the Inspector will be considering three questions:-

1. Is the plan legally compliant?

During an Examination, the Inspector will first check that the Plan meets the legal requirements of the relevant Planning Acts and Regulations. A plan is considered legally compliant when it complies with the legal requirements under section 20(5) (a) of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 (as amended). Relevant to this issue (but not exhaustively) is whether the Plan in question:

2. Is the plan sound?

To meet the Test of Soundness, the independent Planning Inspector is required to consider if our Local Plan has been positively prepared, is justified and effective and is consistent with national policy.

The following points are relevant when considering legal compliance, as set out in paragraph 35 of the National Planning Policy Framework. To be sound, a plan should be:

  1. Positively prepared – providing a strategy which, as a minimum, seeks to meet the area’s objectively assessed needs19; and is informed by agreements with other authorities, so that unmet need from neighbouring areas is accommodated where it is practical to do so and is consistent with achieving sustainable development;
  2. Justified – an appropriate strategy, taking into account the reasonable alternatives, and based on proportionate evidence;
  3. Effective – deliverable over the plan period, and based on effective joint working on cross-boundary strategic matters that have been dealt with rather than deferred, as evidenced by the statement of common ground; and
  4. Consistent with national policy – enabling the delivery of sustainable development in accordance with the policies in this Framework.

3. Has the plan complied with the Duty to cooperate?

A legal duty has been placed on local planning authorities, county councils in England and public bodies to engage constructively, actively and on an ongoing basis to maximise the effectiveness of Local Plan preparation in the context of strategic cross boundary matters.

Section 20(5) (c) of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 (as amended) and paragraphs 24-27 of the National Planning Policy Framework create a duty on all local planning authorities and other bodies to cooperate with each other to address strategic issues in the preparation of the Local Plan. The National Planning Practice Guidance sets out further information on the Duty to cooperate.