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Detailed guide: Local Plan Examination webpages - Advice for Local Planning Authorities

Planning Inspectorate

October 30
08:35 2020

The efficient and effective undertaking of local plan examinations is heavily reliant on the examination webpages to share information and to assist the Inspector , participants and interested parties in finding the broad range of evidence and documentation associated with the examination. As such, it is essential that it is easy for all parties to access and navigate.

This advice has drawn on the experience gained by Inspectors from previous examinations. It sets out some important points for LPAs to consider when setting up the examination webpage. It is not exhaustive and experienced Programme Officers will also be able to offer sound advice based on their experience of what works.

A suggested examination webpage structure is provided in Annex 1. We appreciate that webpage design may be constrained, for example by the house style of the authority. The design and content of examination webpage may also need to vary according to the nature of the Plan being examined. However, the suggested structure in Annex 1 is intended to set out minimum requirements.

The suggested structure should not be seen as a barrier to exploring alternative designs. The key is that the website should be as easy to use as possible with quick access to information about the examination and to documents. Annex 2 provides some links to examination webpages that include examples of good practice.

Important Points to Consider

1, At the very start of the examination the LPA should, through the Programme Officer, liaise with the Inspector to agree the design, structure and content of the examination webpage. The examination webpage should be up and running as soon as possible following the submission of the plan.

2, Although the examination webpage is likely to be hosted on the LPAs main website, it should appear as an independent webpage solely for the purposes of the examination. The examination webpage should also be clearly and easily found from the LPAs main website, preferably through a direct link from the LPA homepage.

3, Once the examination starts, the webpage should display the name of the Inspector and the name and contact details for the Programme Officer. The Programme Officer should take the lead in managing the content of the webpage and ensuring that it remains up to date. Consequently, they should, wherever possible, be given access rights so the pages can be updated quickly where necessary.

4, The examination webpage should be clearly set out and easy to use and navigate. All documents within the examination library should be made as small in file size as possible and be legible when opened.

5, The examination library must include all relevant documents, including the submission documents, supporting evidence base and assessments, documents from previous stages of the plan-making process and all representations made in both respondent and policy order.

The library should also include, when produced:

  • the Inspector initial questions (if any) and the LPAs reply
  • the Inspectors matters, issues and questions and guidance note
  • hearing schedules (and agendas, if used)
  • hearing statements
  • documents associated with the Main Modifications
  • any letters or communications from the Inspector
  • the Inspectors Final Report
  • documents relating to the adoption of the plan.

6, All examination library documents should be easy to find, dated and logically referenced. All related documents (and any subsequent versions of them) should be filed together with the latest version made most prominent.

7, To aid navigation, documents should be managed and filed into distinct sections within the examination library, based on the key stages of the examination. For example, Submission, Examination and Main Modifications (see the suggested structure in Annex 1). All documents must be clearly numbered, and each number should only be used once.

8, Ideally, it should take no more than three mouse clicks from the main menu of the landing page of the examination webpage to reach any document.

9, A Search tool for the webpage is very useful. The file naming, management and referencing system needs to be logical and as simple as possible to aid the search tool.

10, Other useful tools within the examination webpage include a Latest News section with the latest information about the examination at the top of the webpage and a Timeline to indicate the stage the examination has reached.

11, The examination webpage landing page should be regularly updated to relate to the current stage of the examination. For example, if the hearing sessions are coming up then links to the Inspectors Matters, Issues and Questions, the hearing session programme, guidance notes and hearing statements should all be prominently displayed.

12, To avoid unnecessary difficulties for those using the site, it is helpful if examination webpages do not change in design format, structure or web address during the examination.

13, Given the webpage supports the independent examination, all content should be cleared through the Programme Officer before being uploaded.

14, It is important that the Inspector and other participants can easily find consultation responses made at the Regulation 19 stage. One way of achieving this is to provide two PDF copies one sorted by topic/policy and one alphabetically by respondent.

15, Guidance about meeting the accessibility regulations can be found on gov.uk

Suggested Examination Webpage Structure

Main landing page

There should be a direct link to this page from the LPA website homepage

  • Key details of the examination date of submission, name of Inspector, Programme Officer and their contact details
  • Timeline of the examination process (including dates set for key stages)
  • Latest news - including links to relevant documents for the current stage
  • Search tool for finding documents (eg to find representations from a particular party)
  • Examination library a link to
  • What is a local plan examination? a brief section explaining what it is about, what it does and how, with a link to the Planning Inspectorates Procedure Guide

Examination Library

This should be organised to reflect the stages of the examination and should take no more than 3 clicks to arrive at.

Submission

  • Submission plan documents
    • SP/001 Regulation 19 Local Plan Development Plan Document
    • SP/002 Regulation 22 Statement
  • Evidence base documents (including any updates v1, v2 etc)
    • EB/005 - Strategic Flood Risk Assessment
  • Responses to Regulation 19 consultation
  • Responses to earlier consultations

Examination

  • Inspectors initial letters and questions
    • INS/001 - Inspectors initial letter
  • LPAs responses to Inspector
    • LPA/001 Response to Inspectors initial questions
  • Inspectors guidance note
  • Inspectors matters, issues & questions
  • Hearings timetable and participants
  • Hearing statements and topic papers
  • Additional evidence submitted (from the LPA and other participants)

Main Modifications

  • Information about the main modifications process
  • Schedule of main modifications
  • Main modifications consultation
  • Main modifications consultation responses

Inspector Report

  • Inspectors final report

Adoption

  • Adoption statement and documents

Examples of Good Practice

The following Examination webpages, whilst taking differing approaches, are all examples of good practice:

Broxbourne Local Plan 2020

Craven Local Plan 2019

East Riding Local Plan 2015

Oxford Local Plan 2016-2036

Tower Hamlets Local Plan 2031

Published 30 October 2020

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