by Ed Dade

The planning system is full of technical terminology. This page provides a glossary of the key words and phrases to help neighbourhood planners beat the jargon.

Click a letter to navigate the jargon-buster:



Adopted - A Local Plan (or other local development document) which has been examined and formally approved by the local planning authority, and forming part of the Development Plan for the area.

Adoption - The formal decision by a Local Planning Authority to approve the Local Plan, bringing it into effect.

Amenity - A general term used to describe the tangible and intangible benefits or features associated with a dwelling or location, that contribute to its character, comfort, convenience or attractiveness.

Ancient Woodland - any wooded area that has been wooded continuously since at least 1600 AD.


Basic conditions -  The legal requirements which a Neighbourhood Plan must satisfy before it can proceed to referendum. The purpose of the independent examination is to check if the plan satisfies the basic conditions.

In summary, the basic conditions require Neighbourhood Plans to:

  • Have regard to national planning policies and guidance (such as the NPPF and NPPG)
  • Help deliver sustainable development
  • Be in general conformity with the Local Plan's strategic policies
  • Be compatible with EU obligations, for example the plan will not result in harm to the environment or habitats and will not breach anyone's human rights 

Biodiversity - a contraction of biological diversity, all species of life on earth including plants and animals and the ecosystem of which we are all part.

Brownfield Land - Land which has previously been developed. The NPPF sets out a detailed definition of Brownfield Land. In summary, this includes land which is, or has been, occupied by a permanent structure or building. The definition also applies to the curtilage of a building or structure - but excludes residential gardens, recreation grounds, allotments, etc. The definition excludes some buildings and structures, such as those used for agriculture and forestry.

Building for Life 12  - An industry standard for the design of new housing developments, to ensure developments are attractive, functional and sustainable.


Call for Sites - A consultation exercise in which landowners, agents and other site promoters are invited to submit sites to be considered for inclusion in a Local or Neighbourhood Plan

Community Facilities - Facilities including leisure facilities, libraries, public houses, cultural facilities (such as arts and museum facilities), places of worship and community halls.

Community Infrastructure Levy - a 'tax' on new developed, charged per square metre of new built floorspace, to raise funds for strategic infrastructure, such as roads, schools, community facilities, etc.

Conservation Area - A formally designated area of special historic or architectural interest whose character must be preserved or enhanced.

Curtilage - An area of land attached to a house or building and forming one enclosure with it.


Design & Access Statement - A short report accompanying and supporting a planning application, providing a framework for applicants to explain how a proposed development is a suitable response to the site and its setting, and demonstrate that it can be adequately accessed by prospective users.

Design Code - A design code is a type of detailed design guidance that is particularly useful for complex scenarios involving multiple parties in long-term development. A design code can give more certainty to all those involved and help to make high quality places. Preparing a design code can allow organisations and local communities to work together more effectively, helping to build consensus about what kind of place everyone wants to create.

Development Boundary - A boundary shown, on the Policies Map, which defines the extent of the built area of a settlement. The area outside the Development Boundary is normally classed as the countryside. Also known as Development Envelope, Settlement Limit, Settlement Boundary, Village Envelope, etc.

Development Plan - An umbrella term for the local development documents in an area, such as the Local Plan, Neighbourhood Plans and Minerals and Waste Plan.

Development Plan Document (DPD) - A statutory planning document that sets out the spatial planning strategy, policies and/or allocations of land for types of development across the whole, or specific parts, of a Local Planning Authorities area.



Five Year Land Supply - The NPPF requires Local Planning Authorities to publish a report each year which identifies deliverable sites sufficient to provide a minimum of five years’ worth of housing against their housing requirement which is set out in the Local Plan, or set using the government's Local Housing Need, where the strategic policies are more than five years old.



Health - The World Health Organisation’s definition of health is “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” They assert that physical and mental well-being is a human right, enabling a life without limitation or restriction.

Health Impact Assessment - A method of considering the positive and negative impacts of development upon human health.


Independent Examination - Following submission and publication, the local planning authority will pass the Neighbourhood Plan to an examiner to conduct the independent examination, determining if the Neighbourhood Plan meets the basic conditions and other legal requirements.

Infill - The use of vacant land and property within a built-up area for further construction or development.




Lifetime Homes - ordinary homes designed to incorporate 16 Design Criteria that can be universally applied to new homes at minimal cost. Each design feature adds to the comfort and convenience of the home and supports the changing needs of individuals and families at different stages of life.

Local Green Space - Neighbourhood Plans and Local Plans can identify and protect open green spaces from development, where the open space meets a number of criteria.

Designation as a Local Green Space is a very powerful tool for protecting spaces from development, having similar status to Green Belt land.

Local Housing Need - The Local Housing Need is the government's new standard method for calculating the housing requirement in every local authority area. The method is based on household growth statistics, adjusted to reflect affordability in the area. Find the Local Housing Need figure for your local authority area.

Local Planning Authority (LPA) - A local government body with the legal power to carry out town and country planning functions, such as preparing a Local Plan and determining planning applications - for example, a district or borough council or a unitary authority. Find details of current and emerging Local Plans for your area.

Local Plan - The main planning document for a district or borough which sets out strategic and non-strategic policies for development and land use in the area.


Made - Once a Neighbourhood Plan has passed the referendum stage, it must be formally approved by the local planning authority to legally become part of the Development Plan. Once approved, the the Neighbourhood Plan is said to be 'made'.


National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) - The government's planning policies for England. All Neighbourhood Plans must have regard to national policy.

National Planning Practice Guidance (NPPG) - Guidance which explains how national policies should be interpreted and applied by decision-makers.

Neighbourhood Area - The geographical boundary within which a Neighbourhood Plan, including all its policies, apply.

Neighbourhood Development Order (NDO) - A planning document prepared by a Parish or Town Council or Neighbourhood Forum which grants planning permission for a specific type of development in a specific area, such as housing development.

Neighbourhood Forum - In areas without a Parish or Town Council, the community must form a Neighbourhood Forum, with a written constitution and at least 21 members, to prepare the Neighbourhood Plan.

Neighbourhood Plan or Neighbourhood Development Plan - A planning document prepared by a Parish or Town Council or Neighbourhood Forum which sets out planning policies for a local area (such as a civil parish). Once made, a Neighbourhood Plan has the same status as a Local Plan.



Parish Council (or Town Council) - The administrative body for a civil parish. Parish and Town Councils have the legal right to prepare a Neighbourhood Plan.



Referendum - Once a plan passes the independent examination, the local planning authority will proceed to arrange a referendum. Local people will be invited to vote on whether the local planning authority should use the Neighbourhood Plan when making planning decisions.

Rural exception sites - Small sites used for affordable housing in perpetuity where sites would not normally be used for housing. Rural exception sites seek to address the needs of the local community by accommodating households who are either current residents or have an existing family or employment connection. A proportion of market homes may be allowed on the site at the local planning authority’s discretion, for example where essential to enable the delivery of affordable units without grant funding.


Secure by Design - a police initiative that improves the security of buildings and their immediate surroundings to provide safe places to live, work, shop and visit.
Sustainable Development - For the purposes of planning, the NPPF defines summarises sustainable development as "meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs" (para. 8).

The NPPF identifies three over-arching objectives to achieving sustainable development through the planning system:
  • an economic objective – to help build a strong, responsive and competitive economy
  • a social objective – to support strong, vibrant and healthy communities
  • an environmental objective – to contribute to protecting and enhancing our natural, built and historic environment
The basic conditions require Neighbourhood Plans to contribute to achieving sustainable development.




Viability / Viable - An individual development can be said to be viable if, after taking into account all of the costs involved in developing the scheme, it provides a competitive return to the developer and provides a land value sufficient to persuade the land owner to sell their land for the development proposed.

Whether or not a Local Plan is deliverable can be greatly affected by viability. A Local Plan can be said to be deliverable if it identifies sufficient viable sites to deliver the plan’s housing requirements over the plan period.





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