Detailed guide: Local Plans: the examination process

Planning Inspectorate

November 26
14:03 2020

The Planning Inspectorate has published guidance on site visits, hearings, inquiries and events in connection with Coronavirus (COVID-19)


Local plans are prepared by the Local Planning Authority (LPA), usually the Council or the national park authority for the area.

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) states that the planning system should be genuinely plan-led. Succinct and up-to-date plans should provide a positive vision for the future of each area and a framework for addressing housing needs and other economic, social and environmental priorities.

Examining local plans

Once the Local Planning Authority has finished preparing and consulting on a local plan it must be submitted to the Secretary of State who will appoint an Inspector to carry out an independent examination. This process is dealt with by the Planning Inspectorate.

The examination will assess whether the plan has been prepared in accordance with legal and procedural requirements and if it is sound. The four tests of soundness are set out in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

The Inspector will consider the evidence provided by the LPA to support the plan and any representations which have been put forward by local people and other interested parties. In most cases the examination will include hearing sessions which are held in public.

At the end of the examination the Inspector will send a report to the LPA recommending whether or not they can adopt the plan. In most cases the report will recommend some changes that are necessary to allow the plan to be adopted. These are known as main modifications.

In carrying out the examination, the Inspector will be conscious of the benefits of having a robust and up to date plan adopted as quickly as possible and will apply the principles of openness, fairness and impartiality.

The LPA is responsible for paying for the cost of the examining Inspector. The fees are set out in the Town and Country Planning (Costs of Independent Examinations) (Standard Daily Amount) (England) Regulations 2006.

Advice about local plan examinations

Detailed practical guidance on the procedural aspects of local plan examinations can be found in the Procedure Guide for Local Plan Examinations. The Guide includes links to the relevant legislation and applies to local plan examinations, including joint local plans prepared by more than one local planning authority. Please note that some aspects of the Procedure Guide pre-date measures to limit the spread of coronavirus (Covid-19) and it may not currently be possible to follow some of the advice it contains. Different procedures apply for the examination of a Mayors Spatial Development Strategy.

The Governments planning policies relating to local plans can be found in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and further information is provided in Planning Practice Guidance.

The Planning Inspectorate also produces a model representation form for local plans which is available for use by LPAs at the publication (Regulation 19) stage of consultation. There is also a Plans Privacy Statement (ODT, 12.1KB) providing advice about how the Planning Inspectorate will process any personal information. We have also produced advice for LPAs about designing the local plan examination webpage.

A copy of the standard Service Level Agreement for the examination is available on request by contacting This includes a data sharing agreement.

The role of the Secretary of State in local plans

The Secretary of State has a number of legal powers relating to plan making and the examination. The Secretary of State wrote to the Chief Executive of the Planning Inspectorate in connection with these powers on 18 June 2019.

In accordance with this letter the Planning Inspectorate will share all post-hearing advice letters, letters containing interim findings and any other letters and any letters which raise soundness or significant legal compliance issues, as well as fact-check reports, with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government on a for-information basis, at least 48 hours before they are sent to the LPA.

The fact check report is the version of the Inspectors final report which is sent to the LPA to check for factual errors or inconsistencies. The final report is issued after the fact-check process has been completed

The Secretary of States letter refers to a letter from The Rt Hon Greg Clark in 2015.

Programme Officers

When a plan is submitted the LPA must appoint a Programme Officer to assist in the organisation and administration of the examination. The Programme Officer works for the Inspector and provides a channel for all communications between the Inspector and the LPA and other participants.

The Planning Inspectorate provides Programme Officer Training Notes (PDF, 441KB, 21 pages) and runs a training course for new and experienced Programme Officers from time to time depending on demand. The next Programme Officer training course, which was due to take place on Wednesday, 29 April 2020, has been cancelled because of coronavirus (COVID-19), this will be rearranged. If you are interested in a course or you need further advice on how to find a Programme Officer please e-mail

Monitoring local plan progress

The Planning Inspectorate maintains a list of the overall position for each LPA. This is updated as examinations are completed. The date of publication and adoption is based on information provided by the LPA. The date of publication is when the LPA carries out its final public consultation on the plan before it is submitted for examination, under Regulation 19 of the Town and Country Planning (Local Planning) (England) Regulations 2012. These lists are updated every month.

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