Calling all landowners - local plan opportunities

By James Ellis | 14.03.24

As spring approaches, local authorities across the country are beginning to work on new local plans. Landowners who engage in the process early on are more likely to reap rewards.

A frequent topic whenever we meet landowning clients is what they are planting or how the harvest is going. There is a definite synergy with the planning process and the creation of local plans. We often find that landowners who engage at an early stage with the local plan creation process, often reap the benefits in years to come.

A fresh approach for spring

As we approach spring, we are already seeing many local authorities across the country undertake work on their new local plans, with many more set to start very soon or later this year.

From Cornwall to the Cotswolds to the South Coast we are seeing local authorities reach key milestones in creating new planning frameworks, which will last for decades when in place. In North Yorkshire a Call for Sites is imminent. In Somerset and Cumbria, we expect newly created councils to undertake important work later this year.

Sowing the seeds of success

The two key early-stage points at which we would advise landowners to actively engage with and ‘plant a seed’ in the local plan process are:

Call for sites

Call for sites exercises involve local authorities putting out a ‘call’ for landowners to submit their land for consideration for allocation. A site that is submitted to a call for sites exercise and positively assessed can go on to be ‘allocated’ for development or other uses in a local plan. This means that the principle of development or change of use is fully agreed.

Cornwall Council, a largely rural county, is currently undertaking a call for sites. The local authority is in the process of asking landowners to submit land that may be suitable for a variety of uses including housing, commercial use, renewable energy, tourism, and biodiversity net gain.

"At Rural Solutions we frequently submit sites on behalf of landowners setting out the good planning, design, and landscape reasons why a site is suitable for allocation. "

North Yorkshire Council, which also covers a huge rural area, will be starting a call for sites process soon.

If landowners fail to submit their land during the call for sites exercise, they may miss the opportunity. While not impossible to gain development options for their land at other times, it becomes more difficult. This is especially true for larger scale development for uses such as housing.

Local plan consultations

The production of local plans involves a variety of consultation stages including an ‘issues and options’ consultation, followed by a ‘preferred options’ plan consultation before a final draft plan consultation is published for review.

These consultations provide a real opportunity for landowners to engage with a local authority to ensure that planning policies are supportive of rural development and allow landowning businesses to flourish.

If a local authority has an adopted local plan that contains restrictive policies for rural or estate development, there is a danger that this policy could be rolled forward into a new local plan and that this will be used as way to assess planning applications for the next 15-20 years.

Finding a balance

At Rural Solutions, we work with landowners to promote policies which strike the right balance of protecting the countryside while allowing appropriate and sustainable development that helps places, communities, nature, and businesses to thrive.

In the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, where policies have historically been restrictive to development, opportunities for rural estates to flourish or make an optimum contribution have been limited.

However, we are currently acting on behalf of one estate in the area where we have seen very positive results. This is largely due to the recommendation of a whole estate plan approach, and by highlighting best practice used by other national park authorities.

The work has contributed to the national park authority’s new, draft policy supporting rural estates in its draft local plan, which could deliver many more opportunities for landowners in the years to come.

In another example, we are contributing to work undertaken on local plan consultations by Cotswold District Council and Tendring District Council on the south coast.

How to get involved in the process

Landowners should review what stage their local authority is up to in producing a new or replacement local plan. We expect several authorities to launch formal call for sites exercises or local plan consultations later this year including Somerset, Cumbria, Westmorland and Furness, and Cumberland.

What landowners harvest from the planning process often depends on their preparatory and early work. Planting a seed of an idea on a proposed land allocation or innovative policy can benefit landowners for decades to come. Local plans take several years to produce but remain in place for far longer.

Please read 'An overview of the local plan process' for further guidance.

Get in touch

To find out more about the local plan process, to discuss your land or a current or future planning opportunity, please contact the team at Rural Solutions on 01756 797501 or email


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