The Local Development Framework explained

 By Tony Abel, managing director of Abel Homes in Norfolk

Something you come across a great deal as a house builder is the LDF, and this is something which impacts on all our lives.  Those three important letters stand for ‘Local Development Framework’, and this is the tool that planners use to decide how our districts and boroughs will change and grow to best meet the needs of the population, be that in housing, the economy, employment, infrastructure or the environment. For those of us who are involved in meeting those housing needs, the LDF remains the central forward planning tool for our local authorities, despite promises by the coalition government of swift changes in the way we plan our cities, towns and villages. Each council’s LDF draws on a ‘Regional Spatial Strategy’, particularly in relation to growth targets such as those for housing – in Norfolk’s case this is the East of England Plan 2031.  Seen by the coalition as a needless layer of bureaucracy, Regional Spatial Strategies were all but scrapped in 2010 by Eric Pickles, until the High Court recently reinstated them. So we can’t afford to forget about LDFs for a while.   For the time being they will continue to be the rule book for judging all our planning applications, and there is provision for them to endure long after the coalition’s planned changes provided non-conforming sections are struck out.  Whilst LDFs have been criticised as cumbersome – a completed LDF ‘suite’ (of documents) can cost the lives of many trees! – the Local Plans they replaced were even less flexible.  The Local Development Framework is exactly that – a framework of development documents each dealing with its own aspect of the process.  The anchor of the framework is the ‘Core Strategy’ where the vision for the future of the district and the overarching policies aimed at delivering it can be found.  In addition, an LDF will have a Local Development Scheme – the timeline for the production of the full LDF suite, a Site Specifics Allocation Document, Proposals Map, Area Action Plan/s and other supporting documents such as the Statement of Community Involvement. If you think this all sounds like an unnecessarily long-winded list of similar sounding documents, you are right!  But they do give the opportunity for timely review and updating, allowing the appropriate team of officers, using the specialist research they commission, to update each individual document as and when required without the need for a comprehensive review of the entire strategy.  Seven years after their introduction, our local authorities have been making mixed progress; Breckland’s Site Specific Allocations Document is about to undergo its final consultation, while Broadland, Norwich and South Norfolk have opted to work together to produce a final core strategy; Great Yarmouth and King’s Lynn and West Norfolk are finalising their core strategies right now. This may sound all a bit esoteric, but these documents are central to what our communities will look like in the future, and to our ability to provide homes for everyone to live in.  So we should take an active interest in making sure they will meet Norfolk’s needs. 

  • I am very grateful to planning consultant Richard Sykes-Popham for his help in writing this particular column.


Tony Abel is managing director of Abel Homes.  For more information visit

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