History of the Town and County Planning in the UK.
Town and Country Planning legislation has affected many home and land owners over
the years which has perhaps been seen as restrictive at best or obstructive at worst. Planning controls have
also protected many home owners for which they are eternally grateful. So has the balance been struck & what
was history that has lead to the current Planning Controls?
Town an Country Planning is a system to control land use by central Government & implemented by Local
Government. This seeks to maintain a balance of economic development and protection or improvement of the
environment. Every Council of the United Kingdom has developed its own planning policy with
responsibility for town and country planning.
The critical framework for the system was set in the Town and Country Planning
Act 1947, with addition of green belts in 1955, which were introduced via a Government Circular. The
system has not been significantly amended since the Town and Country Planning Act 1947, which repealed
all previous legislation, including the first Housing and Town Planning Act 1909, law to which there followed:
Housing and Town Planning Act 1919, Town Planning Act 1925 and Town and Country Planning Act 1932.
Current planning legislation for England and Wales is consolidated in the Town and Country Planning Act 1990
(TCPA 1990). Associated with this principal Act are three further Acts related to planning. These 4 acts were
defined as the Planning Acts. Parts of these Acts have been replaced or amended by the provisions of the Planning
and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004, which received Royal Assent on 13 May 2004.
QUOTE: "The minute you read something that you can't understand, you can almost be
sure that it was drawn up by a lawyer".
The years previous to the UK town and country planning systems created an explosion in industry, urban
sprawl, pollution and ribbon development. These were seen as undesirable which needed control by the powers
that be at the time.
These concerns were expressed through 'thinkers' such as Ebenezer Howard and the philanthropic actions of
industrialists such as the Lever Brothers and the Cadbury family although by now these influential people had
already made their fortune by utilising the very over-development of the countryside that they now showed interest
The outbreak of the second world war saw a series of Royal commissions that looked at the problems of urban
planning and development control.
- the Uthwatt Committee into compensation and betterment (1942)
- (later) the Reith Report into New Towns (1947)
- the Barlow Commission (1940) into the distribution of industrial population
- the Scott Committee into rural land use (1941)
Patrick Abercrombie developed a plan for the reconstruction of London, which envisaged moving over 1,500,000
people from London to new and developed towns.
The effect of these report were:
- The New Towns Act 1946 and
- The Town and Country Planning Act 1947.
The 1947 Act nationalised the right to develop land that required most proposals to
obtain planning consent from their relevant local authority (there was a right of appeal).
Download documents and diagrams of
The Planning Act required local authorities and councils to develop Local Plans or
Unitary Development Plans to schedule the kind of development they would prefer and to mark special
development areas on Local Plan Maps. Counties were to develop Structure Plans which set broad targets for the
wider area. Structure Plans were expensive in timing and delays evolved meaning that many structure plans were
no longer relevant by the time they were formally adopted.
The frustrated planning system received a number of alterations consolidated in the Town and Country Planning
Act 1990 (TCPA 1990). Section 106 substantially re-enacted Section 52 from the former Act which set the
framework of agreements (known as "planning obligation agreements" or more commonly "Section 106 agreements")
where the developer or home owner is subject to an extra set of detailed arrangements and restrictions well
beyond those which a typical planning condition could impose. This could include the provision of
a financial contribution beyond the immediate building costs in order to compensate for the
'theoretical' external effects of the development onto the local area such as transport and road
Due to the complex & inefficient mechanisms within the 106 legal agreement route it was soon
amended to allow a developer to accept a unilateral obligation to streamline the system which mainly
involved the local authority in receiving a sum of money from the Developer / home owner. This was meant to
stop the Council from withholding permissions by their own failure to negotiate on such detail within a
106 legal agreement.
Linked to this principal Act were 3 further Acts related to planning:-
- The Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990
- The Planning (Hazardous Substances) Act 1990.
- The Planning (Consequential Provisions) Act 1990.
These 4 Acts were defined as the Planning Acts. Almost immediately after parliament passed these Acts,
the government had second thoughts on the excessive control of land development which led to the Planning
and Compensation Act 1991 which rewrote, with important alterations many of the provisions of the Planning
The Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 resulted in a number of substantial changes to the English
Development Plan system. Structure Plans and Local Plans were removed to be replaced with Local
Development Frameworks (LDFs), which comprise of a number of Local Development Documents (LDDs) and
Supplementary Planning Documents (SPDs).
The Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS), which is produced by Regional Assemblies in England, replaces the Structure
Plan as the strategic planning document. This document sets targets for housing and employment
development within each district in a Region for the future. Wales has a variation of this.
Local Authorities must now produce Local Development Schemes (LDS). These outline the work the
LDDs/SPDs they intend to produce over a three year period. Statements of Community Involvement (SCI)
which schedule how the Council will involve the local community must also be included. All LDDs and
SPDs must also have a Sustainability Appraisal (SA) together with a Strategic Environmental
Assessment (SEA). We are told that the SEA is a requirement under European Union laws. Planning Policy
Guidance Notes used to be the mainstay of providing extra information to the Council waffle but these
are being replaced by Planning Policy Statements.
Minor amendments or variations to existing planning approvals are normally allowed which
recognises the fact that planning information is not always detailed enough as to allow the
instant construction of a building project. Working drawings are then prepared based upon the planning
scheme where design Agents or their clients would often install minor changes to
accommodate technical issues or reflective thought on the design.
Buildings are also adjusted on site to overcome unforeseen problems. Regretfully, the legality of these
minor amendments was challenged in 2006 and the 'arse covering' advice to many local authorities is that any
variation to a planning permission should require subsequent planning approval which would entail a lengthy
resubmission and extra fees by the site owner with all the anguish and stress that entails.