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NPPF: Transitional arrangements for plan making

I’m Dr Daniel Slade, the RTPI’s new Policy Manager. I’m responsible for managing the Institute’s policy in England, and practice and networks across the UK.

In this blog, my first for the RTPI, I’ll be contributing to a series we’re running through January and February that concerns the current NPPF consultation.

Why transitional arrangements matter

Effective transitional arrangements - measures which smooth the transition to new planning systems/policies to ensure that effective planning continues during the process - have always been an important part of getting planning reform right.

But with plan making grinding to a halt in many English local authorities and driving the wider adoption of up-to-date local plans being a core objective of this wave of reform, transitional arrangements are particularly important. Uncertainty and risk around the new system would be counterproductive to one of its core objectives.

So, the stakes are high. And the challenge is significant. Indeed, DLUHC’s ambition is to cut the plan making time in half, from 5 years to 30 months, and the measures the department is introducing to make this happen need to be interpreted and implemented by agents at various levels. If statements from Ministers in the second half of 2022 are anything to go by, DLUHC are keenly aware of the threat of even greater slow-down.

The Government’s proposals

DLUHC’s proposals on transitional arrangements concern plan making (here meaning the creation of local plans, neighbourhood plans, minerals and waste plans, and spatial development strategies), the end of supplementary planning documents, and neighbourhood planning. Here is a summary - hold onto your hats:

Plan making

On plan making under the current system:

  • Plan makers will have until 30 June 2025 to submit plans under the existing legal framework and;
  • Plan makers will have until 31 December 2026 for their plans to be adopted, with all independent examinations also having been completed by this point.

On plan making under the new system, which the government states is likely to go live in late 2024:

  • Plan makers will be required to start work on a new style plan within five years of the adoption of their previous plan, and this new style plan must be adopted within 30 months
  • Authorities that do not meet the 30 June 2025 submission deadline for old style plans will need to prepare plans under the new system.

In addition:

  • which are more than five years old when the new system goes live will be required to begin preparing a new style plan immediately; but
  • Plans which are less than five years old when the new system goes live will not need to be replaced until they are five years old

To guard against speculative applications coming forward in ‘gaps’ produced by existing old-style plans becoming out-of-date shortly after the new system is live the government also promise to introduce transitional arrangements whereby:

“…plans that will become more than 5 years old during the first 30 months of the new system (i.e. while the local planning authority is preparing their new plan), will continue to be considered ‘up-to-date’ for decision-making purposes for 30 months after the new system starts.”


“…where a plan has been found sound subject to an early update requirement, and the Inspector has given a deadline to submit an updated plan within the first 30-months of the new system going live, this deadline will be extended to 30-months after the new system goes live.”

Neighbourhood plans

Neighbourhood plans submitted for examination after June 2025 will be required to comply with the new legal framework. ‘Made’ neighbourhood plans that were prepared under the current system will remain in force until they are replaced.

Supplementary planning documents (SPDs)

A major change in the proposed new system is that SPDs will be replaced by Supplementary Plans, which will be independently examined and carry the same weight as local plans, but limit public engagement to written representations and be restricted in terms of the policy themes they can cover and their geographical coverage.

DLUHC proposes that when the new system comes into force, existing SPDs will remain in force until the LPA is a required to adopt a new style local plan (see above), at which point they will cease to have effect.

Three take-aways

Concerns about the shift from SPDs to Supplementary Plans

The complete abandonment of SPDs in this way is a major cause for concern. There appears to be little sense in completely abandoning policy which a) addresses important issues, b) will surely remain important in most cases, and c) has been expensively produced by resource-starved authorities. The cost in both time and money of producing completely new Supplementary Plans will be significant, while valuable policy previously covered by SPDs will either need to be integrated into new local plans, or require the creation of weighty Supplementary Plans. On the flip side, but similarly concerning, is that the limited scope of Supplementary Plans suggests that some important issues covered by SPDs will simply not be covered in local policy.

More certainty about this would be welcome, and the RTPI will continue to develop its position on this issue through engagement with its members (see below).


These proposals are complex. Plan makers will have an important set of questions to ask themselves, depending on where they are in the plan making cycle and their local circumstances. The Planning Advisory Service highlights a useful list of questions here

Carry on planning

Complexity aside, where possible and on the face of it, plan makers with an out-of-date or soon to be out-of-date plan should work towards new plans where they can. This will not only reduce vulnerability to speculative development (which obviously brings its own risks and costs), but hopefully make any future transitions to new style plans easier. In the words of DLUHC, much work on developing old style plans now ‘will be valuable anyway’.

Obviously, political pressure over housing numbers will make this much easier said than done in many cases. And looking further ahead, those LPAs with a local plan that is currently more than five year out-of-date, and therefore just 30 months to produce a new one while navigating a new system and elections, will be up against it to say the least.

Indeed, there’s also the potential for a general election to throw up much greater political turmoil, and yet another new direction for planning reform. Fun.

Contribute to the RTPI’s NPPF policy roundtables

If you’ve not yet done so, we’d strongly encourage RTPI members to lend us your thoughts on these issues at an upcoming roundtable. Take a look here for more details about the consultation and opportunities to participate.

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