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Area Action Plan & Planning Project

Date: 30/6/2009

POS Enterprises launched its Area Action Plan (AAP) and Area-based Planning Project in February 2008, in order to support authorities with their work on AAPs and Supplementary Planning Documents (SPD), at a time when there was very little practical guidance available under the new development plan regime specifically geared towards area based planning.

14 authorities joined the project:- Bath & NE Somerset, Bradford, Chelmsford, Dacorum, Forest of Dean, LB Merton, Mid Suffolk, Oxford, Reigate& Banstead, Richmondshire, St Albans, Teignbridge, Thames Gateway Development Corporation and Wolverhampton, which represented an excellent cross section of size and type of authority with a wide range of local planning issues.

The Project Group met on 4 occasions in June and October 2008 and January and April 2009 facilitated by Keith Nicholson and James Russell on behalf of POSE. A number of key organisations were also invited to attend the project meetings to facilitate a two-way exchange of information and ideas. These were ATLAS, CABE, CLG, PAS and PINS.

The original brief anticipated that the project would seek to address matters such as:

  • The criteria that might be included on Core Strategies for the identification of future AAPs or major SPDs.
  • Assistance in deciding whether an AAP would be the most appropriate planning tool to address the particular issues of an area, or whether an SPD might be more appropriate.
  • Assistance on effective project management systems for the area-based planning process to facilitate the '5Ps' - Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance.
  • Consideration of the relationship between RSS, Core Strategies and AAPs/SPDs in terms of contents and timing.
  • The relationship between AAPs and SPD such as masterplans, area development briefs, design briefs, design coding etc.
  • The integration of AAPs with effective development management systems to facilitate timely and efficient implementation.
  • The application of the tests of soundness to AAPs particularly in relation to the robustness and credibility of the evidence base, the appropriateness of the proposal against the reasonable alternatives, the deliverability of the proposals, their flexibility in responding to changing circumstances and the mechanisms for monitoring and review of the plan and it's proposals.
  • The issue of proportionality in relation to the extent of new evidence gathering required, the depth of information required for sustainability appraisal and the extent of the plan proposals in relation to the scale and seriousness of the issues being tackled.
  • Approaches to community participation, including how to avoid consultation overload following participation on the RSS, Core Strategy, and Sustainable Community Strategy etc.
  • The skills and resources required to undertake the necessary processes in a timely, efficient and effective manner.

The project was, however, established in such a way that the group itself would set its' own agenda and focus on those issues which the authorities considered to be most pressing or important.


A structured brainstorming session at the first meeting identified the topic headings under which the group wanted to focus their efforts as follows:

  • AAPs/SPDs/Masterplans
  • Consultation
  • Evidence
  • Resources for plan making
  • Political relationships
  • Partnership working
  • Deliverability
  • Sustainability Appraisal
  • Certainty v. Flexibility

The vital role of urban design became increasingly clear as the project progressed and was considered as a topic in its own right. It was the subject of specific discussion at the final meeting in addition to being a theme throughout the sessions.

At the outset the participants were also encouraged to set out their expectations of the project, both as a benchmark against which it could be evaluated and to guide the agenda setting for each session.

A Google Group was established to facilitate the exchange of information and opinions, although participants also used traditional e-mail.

Project meetings were generally structured around:

  • Reviewing progress by each authority on their Core Strategies, AAPs and SPDs.
  • Presentations and case studies on the topics of the day.
  • Discussion groups and feedback.

Notes of the meetings were subsequently circulated, together with the presentations, to the participants and members of the other POSE Learning and Dissemination groups. They were also put on the Google site.

Presentations and Case Studies were given on the following: 


Sarah Burgess


CABE's work with Government Offices re Core Strategies & key issues for Development Plan documents


Carolyn Pepper

Design quality in spatial planning focussing on the dynamics of change and place shaping


James Russell  oboAdam Dodgshon

Introduction to regulations and Government policy relevant to AAPs & SPDs


Jackie Leask

Development Plan Manual.  Self Assessment Tool Kit, infrastructure planning


Susannah Guest

Soundness of AAPs


Keith Holland

Soundness of AAPs, need for effective monitoring, strategic sites and importance of urban design


Ian Collinson

Guidance on site allocations in Core Strategies


Graham Jones

Infrastructure Planning & Community Infrastructure Levy


Paul McGarry

Merton Town Centre.  Choice between AAP & SPD


Derek Stebbing

Chelmsford AAP.  Key lessons re evidence, infrastructure planning and development opportunities


Rachel Williams

Oxford West End AAP.  Secrets of success, partnership approach, importance of realism


Mike Vout

Telford Central Area AAP.  Urban Design philosophy & approach to solutions and proposals


Main lessons learnt click here

Final Project Review report click here






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