Local plan checklist

These checklists should help you to work through the soundness and legal requirements from the Act, Regulations, and NPPF. 

Last updated 20 March 2014

We've recently updated our Soundness Self-Assessment Checklist to include marine planning. Under the duty to co-operate and the Marine and Coastal Access Act, landlocked as well as coastal planning authorities must take the marine planning system into account during plan preparation. If you don't, this could impact on the soundness of plans. The updated document builds those aspects of marine planning relevant to all local authorities into the main soundness checklist, and then adds a more detailed final section following and similar to the existing ‘Planning policy for traveller sites' section. This more detailed section sets out in full the interactions between terrestrial planning and marine planning, including the requirements of the marine policy statement, and is likely to be of most use to those local planning authorities whose area physically overlaps with the marine area, all of which are listed for clarity.

But remember, planning isn't a tick box exercise and it will still come down to the quality of the work you've done; this is just an aid.


PINS and the soundness self-assessment checklist

The Planning Inspectorate (PINS) encourages councils to conduct a self-assessment using this checklist. However, the checklist is advisory and not a regulatory requirement. Councils should choose the most effective approach to prepare a robust plan.
You don't have to provide this self-assessment to the inspector. If you wish to do so, we suggest you send it by email or in CD format.

Soundness checklist

Legal compliance checklist


Change log

Soundness checklist

Key considerations:

  • designed more for the strategy part of your plan, but can also be used other parts, or development plan documents
  • structure based on the National Planning Policy Framework
  • assumes two phases of plan preparation: 'frontloading' and 'formulation'

PINs guidance on the framework for assessing soundness - is still available on the Planning Portal website (note, that PINs guidance was part of the Taylor review of guidance but for now is still in place). 

Providing evidence

Try to keep the evidence gathered concise: signpost it with hyperlinks rather than copying documents out in full. However, where no document exists that can adequately answer a key question, you can write a brief statement as an answer.

Where possible, you should provide references to the following forms of evidence:

  • the development plan document (DPD)
  • documents prepared as part of plan preparation (for example, the sustainability appraisal report and the consultation statement)
  • reports to cabinet or committee (if applicable)
  • technical studies or other supporting documents
  • documents used in community involvement – includes consultation letters, publicity material and consultation documents used during the preparation of the plan.

For larger evidence documents – such as the sustainability report, preferred strategy report, surveys and studies – you can refer to the specific section of the document which provides the information.

Plan Structure

We suggest structuring your plan to address the relevant key questions in the PINS guidance. Any documents that contribute to its preparation – the preferred strategy report, the sustainability report and the consultation statement – should also follow this format. For example, this may mean including appropriate text to show that national policy has been followed. Councils should also present conclusions in ways that can be easily referred to in the self-assessment statement as proof of evidence. 


Legal compliance checklist

We've updated our plan-making legal compliance checklist. This reflects the changes to plan-making introduced in the Local Plan Regulations and the NPPF.  It compliments the soundness checklist which was also updated recently.

Please note that this checklist does not refer any specific requirements under other legislation, such as the appropriate assessment process.


Plan Structure

The checklist takes a chronological approach to plan preparation.

  1. Early stages – planning the production of the DPD
  2. Preparation – frontloading phase
  3. Preparation – formulation phase
  4. Publication – to enable representations to be made
  5. Submission – to the Secretary of State

These are not strictly defined stages;  use common sense. While legal compliance is a requirement, the preparation of the DPD should be proportional to the issues.

Providing evidence

Where possible, you should provide references in the soundness tool to the following forms of evidence:

  • references to the DPD
  • documents prepared as part of DPD preparation (for example, the sustainability appraisal report and the consultation statement)
  • statutory notices and other similar documents 
  • representations – normally from participation on the preferred strategy (in the case of a core strategy), but also responses from community/stakeholders including consultation letters, publicity
  • material and consultation documents used during the preparation of the development plan document.

We suggest that the council should collect all proof of legal requirements being met in a separate file (hard copy or electronic). The documents can be filed at the same time as the corresponding entry is made in the 'Evidence provided' column.

Entries in the checklists in bold refer to matters which are non-statutory but expected of councils, such as the supply of documents to government offices.


We have tried to ensure that this checklist accurately reflects legal requirements and robust approaches to the various aspects of plan preparation. However, interpretation of legislation is ultimately a matter for the courts: you should not rely solely on the use of this checklist. 

Your council should satisfy itself that it is using the correct procedure and is in compliance with the relevant legislation. The council may also be subject to requirements from legislation other than the Act, which are not covered by the checklist.

We recommend that the council's own legal department is involved at all stages in the process of developing the development plan document.

Change log

This log does not record any minor changes to spelling, grammar or images. 

October 2013 - Legal compliance checklist updated on pages 12 and 18

April 2013 - Legal compliance checklist updated

24 January 2013 - Updated self-assessment checklist published

20 March 2014 - Soundness checklist updated to include responsibilities under the Marine Planning regime