Last edited 18 Nov 2020

Test of soundness for local plans

Local plans are prepared by local planning authorities and set out a framework for the future development of an area on a 15-year horizon. They define; the priorities for an area, strategic policies, the framework for neighbourhood plans, land allocations, infrastructure requirements, housing needs, requirements for safeguarding the environment, measures for adapting to climate change and so on. They are are also the starting-point for considering whether planning applications should be approved.

The national planning policy framework (NPPF) requires that local plans are examined by an independent inspector to assess whether they have been prepared in accordance with the duty to cooperate, legal and procedural requirements, and whether it is sound. This is described as a ‘test of soundness’.

The national planning policy framework suggests that a local planning authority should submit a plan for examination which it considers is sound, namely that it is:

  • Positively prepared – the plan should be prepared based on a strategy which seeks to meet objectively assessed development and infrastructure requirements, including unmet requirements from neighbouring authorities where it is reasonable to do so and consistent with achieving sustainable development.
  • Justified – the plan should be the most appropriate strategy, when considered against the reasonable alternatives, based on proportionate evidence.
  • Effective – the plan should be deliverable over its period and based on effective joint working on cross-boundary strategic priorities.
  • Consistent with national policy – the plan should enable the delivery of sustainable development in accordance with the policies in the Framework.

The Planning Advisory Service (PAS) offer a local plan checklist intended to help local planning authorities work through the soundness requirements. The Planning Inspectorate (PINS) encourages local planning authorities to conduct a self-assessment using the checklist.

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