National and local planning policies aim to guide future development. In accordance with planning law, a broad range of policies must take be considered in decision making and when preparing a planning application, development brief, or masterplan. These policies cover a wide range of topics including economy, tourism, recreation, shopping, health and safety, housing, waste, transport, built and historic environment and the natural environment.

BPT will challenge, enable or support local and national policies and processes which prioritise people-centred, sustainable development of the public realm, built and natural environment and infrastructure, which leaves Bath, its historic and existing properties, and its landscape, in an improved condition for the next generation.

BPT is actively engaged as a stakeholder in the development of new planning policies for Bath and the B&NES region.

Keep up to date with BPT’s views on the new Local Plan for B&NES.

The Local Development Framework


Development Plans, such as Local Plan documents and Supplementary Planning Documents (SPDs) set out a bespoke framework for the future development of the district. These are expected to reflect national guidance and set out policies to deal with localised issues. Planning law requires that applications for planning permission must be determined in accordance with the local development plan, unless ‘material considerations’ indicate otherwise. Consequently, when determining a proposal, a great many judgments have to be made about the relevance and relative priority of different policy issues.


The Core Strategy and Placemaking Plan form the Local Plan for Bath and North East Somerset, and set in place a strategic planning framework to guide development in the region until 2029.  Previously, it formed two documents – the Core Strategy was adopted in 2014 and the Placemaking Plan was adopted in 2017, both forming part of the Development Plan for the District to be used in the determination of planning applications.

The Plan has since been split into volumes: Volume 1 covers the District-Wide Strategy and Policies which is used as the overarching policy document across Bath and North East Somerset, and Volume 2 covers the specific development targets and strategies for the city of Bath. Subsequent volumes cover different areas including Keynsham, the Somer Valley, and the rural environs.

In January 2023, B&NES Council adopted the Local Plan Partial Update following public consultation, making a series of major and minor modifications to existing planning policies, as well as the insertion of new policies on sustainable construction, embodied carbon, electrical vehicle charging infrastructure, biodiversity net gain, and purpose-built student accommodation.

The Core Strategy, Placemaking Plan and Local Plan Partial Update is being reviewed in the preparation of a new Local Plan. This will establish the planning framework for Bath and North East Somerset up to 2042. The new Local Plan will include a vision, strategy and policies to guide and manage how the district grows and changes over the next 20 years, and how planning applications for new development are decided.

B&NES has a number of Supplementary Planning Documents (SPDs) which look to provide further detail to the policies in the Development Plan and can be used to provide further guidance for development on specific sites, or on particular issues such as design. These should be treated as additional guidance to be read together with the Core Strategy and Placemaking Plan. They add local context or technical detail, and will be considered as a material planning consideration when assessing planning applications and proposed development.

SPDs also include Village Design Statements, which aim to identify the most important aspects of the character of a village, from a planning perspective. They provide guidance to parishioners, parish councillors, prospective developers, architects, planning officers, public utilities and the local authority. They give local people the chance to ensure that as a village grows or changes, it preserves and adds to its existing character, but must be line with the overarching Development Plan.

Key SPD’s for the Bath areas include:

Article 4 Directions are used to restrict certain types of Permitted Development rights in certain areas. It is recommended you check whether there are any Article 4 Directions in your areas before you go ahead with works to make sure if you need planning permission. In the Bath City-Wide Conservation Area there are two known Article 4 Directions that apply to estate agents boards and the demolition of front boundary walls.

The Public Realm & Movement Strategy for Bath City Centre, entitled ‘Creating the Canvas for Public Life in Bath’ was adopted in 2010. The strategy forms part of the Council’s Vision for Bath which seeks to revitalise Bath’s economic, social and cultural wellbeing, and looks at the current condition of the economic and social value of Bath city centre, the key problems such as the increasing dominance of vehicular traffic, and offers opportunities and potential solutions to transform streets and spaces across the centre and improve the public experience of Bath’s core.

The Bath Pattern Book offers technical guidance in the delivery of B&NES Council’s Transport Strategy, in accordance with the wider Development Plan. It sets out design values, design standards, and technical specifications to create a template for public realm changes to ensure a coherent approach, and also sets the standard B&NES will expect of private sector development proposals to ensure the highest standards of public realm are delivered across the city centre.

The Bath Buildings Heights Strategy  provides guidance for development however is not an adopted SPD.

Neighbourhood Plans are a way for communities to have a say in the future of the places where they live and work. A Neighbourhood Plan can be put together by a local community to direct development in a local area in accordance with local character and demand, and counts as a material planning consideration when looking at development proposals. Please note that only the ‘made’, or adopted, Neighbourhood Plans come into force as part of a Development Plan policy.

B&NES Council have compiled a list of their adopted Neighbourhood Plans.

National Planning Policy and Guidance


National legislation and planning frameworks set out how the planning system works, certain area designations such as conservation areas, and what types of works require planning permission. It also establishes what constitutes Permitted Development. It sets out more widescale targets and plans such as housing delivery across the UK. Statutory regulations, such as Building Regulations, are additionally used to ensure national policies are adhered to.


The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) sets out planning policies for England and how these are expected to be applied locally. The NPPF must be taken into account in the preparation of local and neighbourhood plans, and is a material consideration in planning decisions. The NPPF introduced a presumption in favour of ‘sustainable development’ within the English planning system, which encourages local planning authorities to plan positively for new development, and work towards the approval of individual planning applications where appropriate.

National and local planning policy is governed by the Town and Country Planning Act 1990  and the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation) Areas Act 1990.

The Town and Country Planning Act 1990 is statutory planning legislation that sets out the powers of local planning authorities and planning restrictions on development and demolition, as well as the process of enforcement action against unauthorised work.

The Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 sets out laws for the protection of and the granting of planning permission in relation to historic buildings on the National Heritage List for England.

The Act determines that “no person shall execute or cause to be executed any works for the demolition of a listed building or for its alteration or extension in any manner which would affect its character as a building of special architectural or historic interest, unless the works are authorised.”  Listed Building Consent applications are therefore required for any works which affect character.

Enforcement powers to prevent unauthorised works to listed buildings are outlined; unlike typical material works and changes of use, unauthorised works concerning listed buildings do not have a time period within which enforcement notice must be served. Enforcement action can be taken at any time if works are evidenced to be unauthorised.

Additional powers to prevent the intentional neglect of listed buildings are granted to local authorities, who can implement emergency measures such as Urgent Works Notices, Repairs Notices and Compulsory Purchase Orders. 

Local Authorities are granted the power to assess and designate areas of “special architectural and historic interest” as conservation areas; additional responsibilities demand that “special attention shall be paid to the desirability of preserving or enhancing the character or appearance of that area” in respect to granting planning consents.

You can find out more about the Bath City Wide Conservation Area and other rural conservations areas here.

The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015 sets out what works fall within Permitted Development rights, and therefore do not need planning permission. This covers material works as well as change of use. Listed buildings are exempt from Permitted Development rules and generally require listed building consent if changes are being made to the historic fabric.

Areas of special designation are called Article 2(3) land; these can include conservation areas, World Heritage Sites, and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, as well as National Parks and areas of defined ecological significance such as Sites of Special Scientific Interest. These areas are sometimes exempt from Permitted Development rights, but it is recommended that you check with the local authority to see if planning permission is needed.

Permitted Development rights and use classes are often and these changes are recorded as amendments to the General Permitted Development Order (GPDO). BPT will often respond to consultations on proposed changes.

Historic England have produced a range of supplementary guidance on specific areas of historic environment planning policy, including Historic Environment Advice Notes (HEANs) and Good Practice Advice Notes (GPAs).

The government also offers Planning Practice Guidance in relation to the National Planning Policy Framework, and certain types of development such as advertisements, development in the Green Belt or historic environment, and light pollution.

Planning Reforms

March 2023:

The government released a public consultation seeking views on revisions to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) in the form of the Levelling-Up and Regeneration Bill. The consultation scope also included the government’s proposed approach to preparing National Development Management Policies, potential policies to support levelling up, and how national planning policy is currently accessed by users.

Read BPT’s consultation response here.

May 2021:

The Planning White Paper went forward to the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee. Read the report here.

March 2021:

A public consultation was launched for the partial revision of the NPPF; the new draft would implement changes to policy to encourage “beautiful” development, following on from the Building Better Building Beautiful Commission’s report, ‘Living with Beauty’.

Read BPT’s consultation response here.

August 2020:

The Planning for the Future White Paper was released for public consultation. The paper proposed reforms of the planning system to streamline and modernise the planning process, bring a new focus to design and sustainability, improve the system of developer contributions to infrastructure, and ensure more land is available for development where it is needed.

Read BPT’s consultation response here.