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Local Plan update - frequently asked questions

Aerial image of town

What is the Local Plan: Strategy and Sites (LPSS)? 

The local plan serves as a framework for the future development and improvement of our community. It includes site allocations and policies that guide planning applications on development including housing, infrastructure, transportation, environment, and other aspects crucial to our well-being. 

Our Local Plan: Strategy and Sites (LPSS) explains how we'll manage developments until 2034. An up-to-date Local Plan directly and indirectly contributes to achieving a range of the council's strategic priorities across the areas of housing, jobs, environment and community. 

Why does the existing Local Plan need to be updated? 

We are required to review our Local Plan: Strategy and Sites (LPSS) within five years of adoption to decide if an update to the Plan is required.  

We have identified changes in circumstances which support a decision to update the LPSS. These include: 

  • an increase in the level of local housing needed based on Government's standard method calculation 
  • changes in the economy over the past five years including: 
    • a change on shopping habits; more online shopping 
    • a change to employment patterns; more working from home 
    • a strong demand for storage space
    • a change in the residential property market, which is strongly influenced by interest rates and the cost of development 
  • slower progress toward delivery of several strategic sites than anticipated 
  • changes in planned delivery of supporting infrastructure such as the Guildford A3 scheme

To be effective and deliver the right results, Local Plans need to be kept up to date. 

Will the update mean our existing Local Plan: Strategies and Sites (2019) is now no longer useful or redundant? 

No. The existing Local Plan will not become redundant. It will remain the primary consideration in determining planning applications in the borough until it is replaced by a new, updated Local Plan. 

What will the difference be between our existing Local Plan and an updated one? 

We are in the very early stages planning for updating our Local Plan, so we are not yet sure what the updated version will look like. We are considering the changes in circumstances outlined in Q2 and what evidence we will need to support an update.

We also need to be aware that the government is committed to making changes to the Plan Making system and our updated plan will need to reflect and be consistent with these changes.

We want to reassure residents that they will be able to have their say on any suggested changes. 

What work needs to be carried out to update the Local Plan? 

There is a lot of work to be done before an update is adopted. Under the existing legislation, the next steps we will be carryingout are: 

  • considering the budget, timetable and scope of work  
  • creating the report 
  • taking this to Executive  
  • evidence gathering 
  • drafting an issues and options/preferred options version of the Local Plan
  • a first phase of 6-week public consultation phase when residents will be able to view the draft update and have their say
  • drafting a final version of the Local Plan that will be submitted to the Secretary of State
  • a further phase of 6-week public consultation
  • if no major changes are needed, finalising and submitting that plan to the Secretary of State for examination in public by an independent planning inspector
  • hearing sessions
  • consultation on any main modifications to the Local Plan required by the Planning Inspector
  • inspector's report
  • adoption of the Local Plan by the Council   

How long will it take to carry out this work to update the Local Plan? 

An appropriate timeframe for the work involved to update the Local Plan will be included in a further report. We expect this report to be ready by autumn when it will go to Executive. 

The first phase of the process will consider the budget, timetable and scope of work required to carry out a Local Plan update.  

The updated Local Plan will need time for evidence gathering, plan drafting and at least two rounds of consultation prior to submission to the Secretary of State for examination by an independent planning inspector. This process will take several years.

There are some uncertainties which will impact on an updated Local Plan, including the Government's proposed reforms to the planning system. (See below: What other factors will need to be considered as part of this update?) 

Will I get a chance to have my say on any proposed update to the Local Plan? 

Yes and on more than one occasion. But this is not likely to be until 2025, subject to agreement on the budget, timetable, and scope of work (see Q5). The consultation process will be undertaken in line with our Statement of Community Involvement and include: 

  • an opportunity to view the update on our website or in person at libraries/council offices 
  • online survey / opportunity to provide written comments
  • drop-in sessions where you can find out more by speaking to the Planning Policy team  

We will contact everyone on our consultation database to let them know when the consultation period is open. We will also engage with the press and other interested parties such as parish councils. Please contact to be added to our mailing list.

How much will an update to the Local Plan cost? 

The budgetary requirements of the Local Plan update will be included in the report to Executive in the autumn.

What other factors will need to be considered as part of this update? 

As well as producing our own local evidence to inform the updated plan, central government is giving us new guidelines/policies this year. These include new: 

  • National Development Management Policies (NDMPs). National Development Management Policies (NDMP)are a new category of planning policies issued by the government to be used by local authorities to make planning decisions. NDMPs aim to simplify the planning system by setting a nationally consistent set of policies that do not need to be repeated in each council's local plan
  • National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). The National Planning Policy Framework sets out the Government's planning policies for England and how these should be applied. It provides a framework so local plans can provide for sufficient housing and other development in a sustainable manner. 

How will these forthcoming government changes to planning affect our Local Plan? 

Many requirements of the 'new style' plan-making are not yet clear. However, our updated Local Plan will need to be prepared under the reformed planning system.  

The new NDMPs aim to make local plans simpler and faster to produce. Nationally important issues will be covered by NDMPs, and local plans will be able to focus on locally important issues.

What is the timeframe for the Local Plan update? 

We are working on a detailed report setting out the proposed timescales for the update. The first phase of the process will consider the budget, timetable and scope of work required to carry out a Local Plan update. This phase is expected to be complete before the end of the year. 

The updated or new-style Local Plan will need time for evidence gathering, plan drafting and at least two rounds of consultation prior to submission to the Secretary of State for examination.

What is the Local Plan: Development Management Policies? Will it be part of this update? 

The Local Plan: Development Management Policies (LPDMP) is the second part of the Local Plan. It was adopted by Full Council on 22 March 2023 and so was not subject to the 5-year review. It supplements the adopted Local Plan: Strategy and Sites (2019) which is now being updated. 

The LPDMP brings a range of new development management policies. It will help shape and deliver high quality new development. It includes policies related to: 

  • design 
  • heritage 
  • biodiversity and 
  • climate change 

We will consider whether this part of the Local Plan should be incorporated as part of the update once Government planning policy reform is confirmed.

Who decides how many new homes need to be built? 

Local Plans need to set out a figure for the number of homes we need to build each year. The adopted Local Plan states a need for 562 new homes a year. This figure was reached using the methodology previously mandated by national policy.   

Government policy has now changed and we need to follow its standard method. This is based on a much simpler calculation using readily available Office for National Statistics data. The aim is to increase transparency and reduce the time it takes to debate local housing need when examining Local Plans. 

The advisory starting point for assessing our local housing need is calculated by the Government's standard method. 

At present, this figure is 771 homes per year. 

Where can I find out more information about the update to the Local Plan? 

Find out more about the Local Plan