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What is the Plymouth Plan?


What is the Plymouth Plan?

Plymouth Plan structure
Plymouth Plan structure

The Plymouth Plan is a ground-breaking plan which looks ahead to 2034. It sets a shared direction of travel for the long term future of the city bringing together a number of strategic planning processes into one place.

It talks about the future of the city's economy; it plans for the city's transport and housing needs; it looks at how the city can improve the lives of children and young people and address the issues which lead to child poverty and it sets out the aspiration to be a healthy and prosperous city with a rich arts and cultural environment; and it sets out the city's spatial strategy, incorporating the Plymouth-specific elements of the Plymouth and South West Devon Joint Local Plan.

The video below was created at the start of our interactive Plymouth Plan journey but helps explain what the Plymouth Plan is:

Why do we need it?

Plymouth has for many years had a radical agenda to transform the city, driven by its ambition to become one of the most vibrant waterfront cities in Europe where an outstanding quality of life is enjoyed by everyone.

Since 2004, when the so-called 'Mackay Vision', named after one of its authors, was made part of the city’s planning policy (A Vision for Plymouth: A Past with a Future, MBM Arquitectes with AZ Studio, 2003), Plymouth has been on a course to increase its population through economic growth by over 20 per cent. Such a scale of growth presents the city and the wider sub region with a huge opportunity to create a better future for everyone, as jobs are created, earnings are increased, productivity is raised, living standards are improved, aspiration and skills are increased, the housing needs of local people are met, and better quality services and facilities for those living in and visiting the city are provided. However, it also carries considerable challenges particularly in the light of the Covid-19 pandemic which has impacted on the city’s economy, travel patterns and usage as well as individual’s health and social wellbeing. This Plan can be used alongside Resurgam: Plymouth’s Covid-19 Economic Recovery Plan as an opportunity to make the city more resilient and grow back better than before to ensure that the benefits of growth are experienced by all Plymouth's people, and that a fairer, healthier, safer and greener city is achieved.

On 18 March 2019, the City Council declared a climate emergency in recognition of the need for an urgent response from the global community to the threat of climate change, with a target of a net-zero city by 2030. The Climate Emergency Action Plan defines carbon neutrality as the point when we achieve a net zero carbon budget by getting as close to zero greenhouse gas emissions as possible by 2030, and then offsetting any residual emissions via other credible initiatives.

In order that this long term strategic plan is properly aligned to this outcome the Council is committed to the United Nations sustainable development goals. The 17 goals were adopted by all UN Member States in 2015, as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development which set out a 15-year plan to achieve the goals.

Transforming the city is a long term venture; it does not take place by accident or overnight. It needs careful planning and persistent delivery, keeping the vision in sight at all times. It requires key decisions about investments and priority interventions to be strategically informed, so that they complement one another and work together to secure quality outcomes. It depends on partnership and co-operative working with local people, businesses, developers, and a multitude of agencies and organisations, including neighbouring local authorities. In short, it needs a strategic plan that the whole city can own.

How will the Plymouth Plan deliver a shared vision?

Figure 1 - How the plan will be used to drive delivery
Figure 1 - How the plan will be used to drive delivery

Figure 1 shows how the Plymouth Plan will be used to drive the delivery of the city’s vision. An important principle is that local people and communities of geography, identity and interest are at the heart of the plan.

An Investment and Infrastructure delivery plan sits alongside the plan to identify and prioritise key infrastructure and other investment needed over the short, medium and long-term. Other outcome specific delivery plans will be aligned to the objectives of the plan, setting out the detail of how the higher level objectives and policies of the plan will be implemented. The detailed implementation of those parts of the plan to be delivered through the planning application process will be amplified by a Supplementary Planning Document. Community-based initiatives, such as neighbourhood plans, will be given a strategic context so that they help move the city towards achieving its vision. A co-operative approach to monitoring and review will be an integral part of the implementation process and will lead to regular updating of the plan.

What statutory roles does the Plymouth Plan perform?

The Plymouth Plan meets a variety of statutory functions that the City Council and other statutory bodies in Plymouth are obliged to fulfil, including the preparation of the following strategies and plans:

  • Transport (Transport Act 2000, as amended by the Local Transport Act 2008) - Local Transport Plan.
  • Health and Wellbeing (Health and Social Care Act 2012) - Health and Wellbeing Strategy.
  • Community Safety (Crime and Disorder Act 1998) - Safer Plymouth Partnership Plan.
  • Housing (Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009); Self-Build and Custom
  • Housebuilding Act 2015; Housing and Planning Act 2016) - Plymouth Housing Plan.
  • Natural Environment (The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 and
  • Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006) - Plymouth Green Space Strategy.

Other strategic principles absorbed into the Plymouth Plan include those dealing with:

  • Climate Change - Climate Emergency Action Plan.
  • Economy - Plymouth Local Economic Strategy.
  • Children and young people - Plymouth Children and Young People's Plan.
  • Child Poverty - Child Poverty Strategy.
  • Art and culture - The vital spark: A cultural strategy for the city of Plymouth.
  • Waste - Plymouth Municipal Waste Strategy.

Although the Plymouth Plan incorporates Plymouth-specific elements of the Joint Local Plan (JLP), it has no statutory 'development plan' status under the Town and Country Planning legislation in itself. Rather, such status remains entirely with the JLP.


Each strategic objective and policy in the plan is guided by one or more of five complementary principles. These create an environment for the plan to be delivered in the best possible way for people. They anchor the plan, demonstrating confidence and openness about the basic values and beliefs that create the conditions to drive the prosperity and well-being of the area.


1. Roots

People feel like they belong in the community where they live and care for their own future and that of their local community. The Plymouth Plan aims to create the conditions where people feel they are part of the city or the community within which they live and are sufficiently secure to contribute and invest in a diverse community and society. This principle also places responsibility for caring for the future of the environment at its heart and recognises that everyone plays a role in this.

The Plymouth Plan aims to create the conditions for this principle in a range of different ways, for example:

  • Everyone in Plymouth feels welcome and supported.
  • Sustainable development is at the heart of decision making.
  • Communities are sustainable and places where people enjoy living.
  • High quality homes support people to feel settled, invested in and cared for.
  • The city's environment and the heritage is cared for and celebrated.
  • Local people feel positive about the place where they live and are proud of their own and the community's culture.

2. Opportunity

People have more equal opportunities and the ability to contribute to and benefit from being part of the Plan Area's future. The Plymouth Plan aims to create the conditions that enable people to access the resources,
services and support they need in order to thrive.

The Plymouth Plan will do this in a range of different ways, for example:

  • Addressing health inequalities and long term health conditions.
  • Supporting healthy lifestyle choices through a health-enabling transport system and promotion of and access to the natural environment.
  • Ensuring children and young people have the best possible start in life.
  • Ensuring transport options are accessible to support people to get to work, leisure and services.
  • Creating an entrepreneurial culture which supports new business start ups and investment among our existing businesses.
  • Ensuring that local residents have access to fulfilling careers.
  • The built environment respects people's rights and needs for access and high quality spaces.
    Diverse communities of geography, interest and identity are celebrated.
    Planning obligations and where appropriate the community infrastructure levy are used to benefit communities and the natural environments affected by development.

3. Power

People have confidence that they can influence decisions that affect them. Power is distributed in a way that makes the most of existing networks and systems. Sometimes difficult strategic decisions will need to be made to move the city forward. The Plymouth Plan aims to promote the sharing and devolving of power to enable action to happen, making use of democratic processes already in place and enabling local communities to influence decisions or make decisions in fair and transparent ways. The Plymouth Plan will create the conditions for this principle in a range of different ways, for example:
Devolving power and supporting communities to lead change in their area.

  • Influencing decisions at a regional and national level.
  • Effective conservation and enhancement of the natural environment.
  • Empowering people, communities and institutions to drive their own economic success.
  • Clear strategic decisions are made about land use and need.
  • Local stewardship of heritage assets.
  • Improving health literacy amongst the population to allow people to navigate local power structures and obtain the outcome they need.

4. Flourish

Individuals, communities and businesses thrive and there is an environment that is creative, enterprising, diverse and open to new ways of doing things. The Plymouth Plan aims to enable exciting and resilient opportunities for business and communities. Individuals should feel that making their aspirations happen is possible and be supported to try new things. The Plymouth Plan will create the conditions for this principle in a range of different ways, for example:

  • Creating sustainable linked neighbourhoods and supporting neighbourhood planning where appropriate.
  • Strategic and regional role is well promoted to support businesses and communities.
  • Supporting Plymouth as a regional centre of excellence for health.
  • Low carbon and green improvements that create spaces and facilities for people to thrive.
  • Sports are supported and developed as a key element of public health.
  • The profile of Plymouth as a place to live, invest, study and visit is well promoted regionally and internationally providing conditions which support global trading opportunities.
  • The city and the surrounding area of West Devon and South Hams will be is promoted as an internationally renowned UK destination.
  • Encouraging a culture of collaborative partnership working amongst our businesses, networks and wider communities, sharing and learning from each other.
  • Celebrating the green city credentials and promoting the green assets within the city.
  • Recognising important role which the world class universities and research centres within the city play.
  • Ensuring economic growth is inclusive.

5. Connections

People mix physically and socially, so they can interact, learn from each other and work together. The Plymouth Plan aims to create conditions that help people work together, meeting different people and finding different ways to deliver change and make things happen. The Plymouth Plan will create the conditions for this principle in a range of different ways, for example:

  • Encouraging joined up public services and shared resources.
  • Working together with neighbouring authorities.
  • Joined up approach to managing the natural environment to protect and enhance it.
  • Enabling communities to mix and share skills to contribute to sustainable neighbourhoods through neighbourhood planning and other appropriate projects and processes such as masterplans.
  • Opening data wherever possible to improve our collective understanding of how the city and the wider area operates.


In addition to these five principles, the city has adopted two strategic themes which identify the kind of place Plymouth wishes to be identified as. These themes can be seen as ‘golden threads’ that run through the entire plan, ensuring that as the plan is implemented its principles are held to and fundamental needs are met, whilst at the same time meeting national statutory or policy requirements.

Theme 1 - A Welcoming City

To be a welcoming city where:

  1. Every citizen feels safe, has the home they need in an environment where they can thrive, and they are supported in playing a full role in the life of their community, culture and city.
  2. Every person who lives in or visits the city will be treated fairly and with respect through prioritising the importance of physical, financial and intellectual access to facilities, services and opportunities and promoting community cohesion.
  3. Every child has access to an environment that prevents, reduces and mitigates the impact of child poverty, and which provides outstanding early learning opportunities and schools with a wide-ranging curriculum, as well as safe homes where they can thrive and neighbourhoods designed with their wellbeing in mind.
  4. Every young person has access to the opportunities they need to gain skills for productive and fulfilling employment, and the housing, employment and entrepreneurial opportunities they need to be able to remain in the area should they wish to do so.
  5. Every student feels welcome and can contribute to the civic life of the city. They have access to quality accommodation near their place of study, and have the opportunity to remain in the city once they have graduated, with the support they need to start a business or enter local employment.
  6. Every business and investor/potential investor in the area is provided with the support and encouragement it needs to grow / invest, with the delivery of services and the development of policy designed to reduce obstacles to growth and boost investor confidence.
  7. Every visitor will know that they are welcome in the area through the provision of a high quality visitor experience and cultural offer, with attractive sustainable transport gateways and services, a quality and unique historic and natural environment, excellent hospitality services and visitor accommodation, and high quality information and Internet connectivity.

This key theme emphasises that the Plymouth Plan is ultimately about people and meeting their needs. The theme aims to ensure that delivery always occurs in a way which expresses the highest value to the very people the policy is designed to support. A welcoming place can be seen in the services that it delivers as well as the public spaces and physical environment it provides. A welcoming place expresses values that should affect every aspect of local governance.

Theme 2 - A Green City

To be one of Europe's greenest cities. Plymouth will be a place where:

  1. Our ambition to be a net-zero city by 2030 is met by:
    1. Conserving energy in our homes, businesses and modes of travel.
    2. Increasing the proportion of energy from local renewable, decentralised and low carbon sources.
    3. Supporting co-operative action on energy.
  2. A thriving clean, green economy is achieved, with a skilled and growing workforce business base and workforce supporting land and marine located renewable energy generation and use, and reducing carbon emissions by businesses, homes and transport.
  3. A high quality and functional network of collectively cared for natural spaces provides for the needs of people, wildlife and businesses, now and in the future.
  4. An ambitious housing and social policy is delivered which ensures affordable warmth, addresses fuel poverty, provides healthier homes, and supports local people in accessing cheaper and green energy.
  5. A transport system is provided that responds to emerging technological changes for electric and low carbon forms of transport, and delivers a step-change in walking, cycling, and public transport as the travel modes of choice for those living in and visiting the city.
  6. Ambitious recycling rates are achieved and Plymouth is a virtually nil-to-landfill city.
  7. People and communities are aware of, value and contribute to the sustainability of the environment around them and are encouraged and empowered to meet the challenges posed by climate change and make their own contribution through energy, travel and recycling choices to the achievement of the city's 2030 net-zero target.
  8. Bathing waters are healthy to bathe in at all times, the area is resilient to flooding.
  9. Clean air is enjoyed and Plymouth has some of the cleanest air of any city in the country.
  10. Known for its food - exceptional quality, locally grown, low carbon, available to all; with Plymouth building on its reputation as a 'sustainable food city'.

Plymouth provides some of the best environments and opportunities for quality of life of any city in the United Kingdom. The city aspires to be amongst the greenest and most sustainable places in Europe.

Plymouth itself has been recognised as one of Forum for the Future's leading 'green' cities and has a strong reputation in promoting sustainable development. For example, in recent years Plymouth has almost doubled the area of land designated as Local Nature Reserves, supported 2,500 improvements in home energy efficiency, delivered a major programme to supply schools with low cost renewable energy, installed electric car charging points around the city, delivered new walking and cycling initiatives, delivered personalised travel planning to over 84,000 households, seen major new investment in water infrastructure by South West Water, and launched a programme of work to establish the UK's first National Marine Park within Plymouth Sound.

A net-zero target by 2030 is ambitious and will require a multi-faceted programme of carbon reducing measures and a step-change in green energy, energy efficiency and sustainable travel. This would be a significant move towards supporting the UK government's nationwide target for 2050 of an 80 per cent reduction on 2005 levels, as set out in the Climate Change Act 2008. Other major outcomes that are within reach include delivering substantial progress towards overcoming fuel poverty in the city, and taking care and management of the city's precious natural environment to even higher levels and engaging all of the city's schools in an environmental learning network.

The Plan

Plymouth's vision is to be one of Europe's most vibrant waterfront cities where an outstanding quality of life is enjoyed by everyone.

The Plymouth Plan is structured around three strategic themes and a spatial strategy which together explain the city's game plan to achieve this vision.

Explore all the policies in the Plan or view and download the whole Plymouth Plan (PDF, 1.5MB).

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