Development plans, in the UK, are used to communicate policy framework and land use proposals, which organise development decisions within a specific area (Lancaster City Council website, 2009). Therefore, when the planning body determines a planning application it will look at what development plan policies and proposals apply to a given area and then see how closely the development proposal complies with the plan. Development plans constitute the main backcloth against which applications for planning permission are determined (Moore, 1993).
The contents of development plans usually include policies relating to the conservation of the natural beauty and amenity of the land, the improvement of the physical environment and the management of traffic. However, there are many other factors which can be included, such as providing landowners with certainty about the development prospects for their land (Wenban-Smith, 2002) and also projecting impacts on the market as a result of land-use planning (Healey, 1992). The framework of plans is established by a huge library of statutes, rules, regulations, directions, policy statements, circulars, guidance and other official documents (Cullingworth & Nadin, 2006).
The precursor of modern local plans were the planning schemes of The Housing and Town Planning Act 1909, which could be prepared for any land in course of development or likely to be used for building, with the object of securing proper sanitary conditions and convenience in use of land or any neighbouring lands (McConnell, 1987). An example of this type of plan was that prepared by W.R. Davidge for Chesterfield in 1909. This method of planning was development usually control by zoning (Cullingworth & Nadin, 2006).
The Housing and Town Planning Act 1919 then made it compulsory for such schemes to take place if the population was above 20,000. The Town Planning Act 1925 then consolidated the 1919 Act (McConnell, 1987). In the 1920s and 30s Joint Town Planning Committees were formed and non-statutory regional plans were made (especially for Garden Cities), often prepared by consultants working with local authorities (Greed, 1993). Although they did not have a major impact, they were important as they formed the basis of the comprehensive development plan and focussed on population, new towns and rural areas (with a focus away from design and more in favour of survey and implementation). The Manchester Corporation, for example, tackled Wythenshawe with a master-plan approach. The Town & Country Planning Act 1932, extended the realm of planning schemes to include rural land, but made preparation of schemes voluntary. As a result few were prepared (McConnell, 1987). Cherry (1974) explained that by 1933, 1235 schemes had been initiated but only 94 of these schemes had been approved.
The Second World War provided the foundation for the modern day British planning system (Cullingworth & Nadin, 2006). There were three reports that carved the way for future development plans (especially statutory plans), which were: -
1) The Barlow Report 1940
2) The Scott Report 1942 and
3) The Uthwatt Report of 1942
Many of the proposals were taken up into planning policy within five years. However, comprehensive urban planning derives from the 1944 Town and Country Planning Act, which allowed authorities to acquire land and prepare schemes for reconstruction purposes (Ambrose, 1986) but also plans such as the Abercrombie Greater London Plan of 1944. These led to the formation of the 1947 Town and Country Planning Act, which aimed to provide a framework against which proposals for development could be considered. County councils and county boroughs were responsible for preparing the development plans at this time.
From 1947 onwards there were important periods that have moulded the present day development plan. The 1947 style plans were not flexible enough for the conditions of the 1960s (Cullingworth & Nadin, 2006). Moore (1993) differentiates between three periods of development plan formation: -
1) Old style development plans 1947-1968
2) New-style development plans 1968-1985
3) Unitary development plans 1985-1993