October 20th 2022

If you are interested in or concerned about future development in your area, then making your views known when the local plan is being drawn up is really important.

Local Plans are prepared by Local Planning Authorities. They identify locations for new development over the coming years and they also set out planning policies – these essentially form criteria that new proposals for development must meet in order to secure planning permission. This means that local plans have a huge influence on what development will take place in an area.

There are likely to be some changes soon to how the local plans system works due to changes at the national level. There will also be changes resulting from the local government reorganisation, which will result Cumbria being governed by two new unitary authorities.  These new authorities will have to prepare their own plans, replacing existing plans. We will update this page accordingly, but the basic approach to having your say on local plans is unlikely to change significantly.

Anyone, regardless of where they live, or whether they are objecting to or supporting the proposal, can comments on local plans. Comments can be made at various stages during the preparation of the plan, usually during a set consultation period.

To have the best chance of influencing what goes into the plan, comments should be made at the earliest opportunity. The later in the process concerns are raised, the less likely it is that any fundamental changes will be made.

Most authorities will begin with a sort of ‘scoping’ stage. This is when overarching factors are considered such as the overall amount of development and the general distribution of development (i.e. will development be focused in certain settlements or more evenly spread out across the area?) and this is when there is most chance to influence the overall thrust and approach of the plan. It is also at this early stage when local authorities will ask for suggestions for sites where new development could be located.  Later in the process, comments will be sought on more detailed aspects, including the draft policies and suggested sites for development.

Most authorities keep a list of people who wish to be notified when an opportunity to participate in preparing the plan takes place. There is no obligation to make comments if you are on the list, but it is the best way of ensuring you will know about the opportunities to have your say as they arise. Consultations are usually advertised in other ways too, such as local and social media and the relevant local planning authority’s website.

It is important to remember that although planning applications can be made on sites that are not identified in the local plan, by the time a planning application is submitted for a site that is in an adopted (finalised) local plan, the principle of the site being developed has already been agreed. The site will have been subject to several consultation exercises (often over the course of several years) and extensive assessment by the local planning authorities and other agencies. This all means that it is highly likely to go ahead, regardless of any objections to the planning application, although comments could still influence aspects such as the design or layout of the new development.

It’s also important to remember that local plans must reflect national policy and legislation unless there is clear local evidence demonstrating that a different approach is necessary and appropriate in a particular area. This means the planning authority cannot always make the specific changes to the plan that people have suggested during consultations, but they should explain why a change had not been made if this is the case.

Comments submitted at each consultation stage are considered by the local planning authority and will be used to inform amendments to the plan. Once a final draft is prepared, it is submitted to the government who appoint an independent planning inspector to examine whether the plan meets certain tests (e.g. whether the correct legal process has been followed and whether the content reflects national policy). This examination involves a public hearing at which those who commented at the final stage of consultation can speak if they wish. Following the hearing the Inspector will prepare a report that will conclude whether or not the plan can come into force (adoption) and replace any previous plan.

Submitting a response

Most planning authorities will ask for comments to be submitted on a set form, as this makes processing and recording all the comments much quicker and easier, but you can also submit them by email or by post. Anonymous comments are not usually accepted.

Be sure to check the details of the consultation, including the deadline for responses before responding. If the plan has reached the final stages of preparation and consultation, there are some limitations on who can comment and what they can comment on.

Finding out more

You can find out more about the local plan for your area on your local authority’s website, including whether or not a new plan is currently being prepared and what stage has been reached, as well as how and when you can get involved. We have provided links to the relevant web pages for each Cumbrian planning authority below, along with a note as to the current position of each authority’s local plan and an indication of whether or not there are upcoming opportunities to get involved.

You can also view draft and finalised local plans in person at the relevant authority’s offices. You may need to make an appointment with the authority if you wish to do so.

During and after a consultation period, you will usually be able to read comments made about the plan by others as well as information about what changes were made to the plan in light of comments made and why.

Lake District National Park Authority adopted their local plan on 19th May 2021 but is working on some design guidance, so there are current opportunities to get involved

Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority – is currently reviewing their local plan and there are likely to be consultations coming up soon 

Allerdale Borough Council - has recently adopted their local plan so it may be a while before there are any consultations

Barrow Borough Council - has adopted their local plan relatively recently so it may be a while before there are any consultations

Carlisle City Council – has an adopted local plan and are currently focusing on preparing a plan for the St Cuthbert’s Garden Village – there may be further opportunities to comment on this  

Copeland Borough Council – is in the final, formal stages of preparing a new local plan so there will be limited opportunities for new involvement

Eden District Council –has decided not to commence a partial review of its local plan, but is working on some design guidance, so there may be opportunities to get involved 

South Lakeland District Council – is currently in the early stages of reviewing its local plan, so there will be opportunities coming up to get involved

Cumbria County Council – has an adopted local plan relating to minerals and waste for Cumbria excluding the two national parks

More information about the overall process of preparing local plans can be found online: