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What is the Plymouth Plan?

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.

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 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.

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?

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.


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.

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).

How we will implement the Plymouth Plan

The Plymouth Plan puts all the city's strategic level policies into one document. This will aid delivery because partners will have a shared understanding of City Vision and direction of travel, assisting them in ensuring their 'business as usual' is aligned behind the overall vision.

Putting all the strategic policies into one place also enables us to identify those more complex issues that need to be delivered through a joined up approach. Only a systems leadership approach will succeed in delivering these more complex issues. Systems leadership acknowledges that many of these issues cross departmental, organisational and sector boundaries and therefore rely much more on influence and persuasion than the management of resources that are within the direct control of one organisation.

Systems leadership is described by the Leadership Centre as…. “the way you need to work when you face large, complex, difficult and seemingly intractable problems; where you need to juggle multiple uncertainties; where no one person or organisation can find or organise the solution on their own; where everyone is grappling with how to make resources meet demand which is outstripping them; and where the way forward therefore lies in involving as many people’s energies, ideas, talents and expertise as possible.”

It is often characterised by the following principles:

  • Successful delivery is based on relationships and trust and achieved through the ability to persuade and negotiate
  • Solutions are co-designed with stakeholders and end users, but should still be evidence based
  • Maintaining constancy of purpose is as important as being flexible and adaptable throughout delivery
  • Issues are complex making it more important to adopt a long term approach - making progress rather than seeking to solve the whole problem from the outset
  • Making initial progress is more effective through a 'coalition of the willing'.

There is a good deal of correlation between systems leadership and the attributes of 'smart cities'. A smart city is a managed entrepreneurial city (not a technological utopia), whose agility and flexibility in adapting to modern challenges, makes it more efficient and competitive, whilst also being inclusive.

The British Standards Institute defines the concept of Smart City as "the effective integration of physical, digital and human systems in the built environment to deliver sustainable, prosperous and inclusive future for its citizens".

In today’s highly competitive world with its many urban challenges, being smart is not really an option, it is a necessity. In much the same way that Plymouth has adopted 'growth' as its strategy of choice, that growth must also be sustainable, inclusive and value generating - in other words it is 'smart'. Smart growth is the only real means by which Plymouth can tackle its challenges and capitalise on its opportunities.

Plymouth is committed to becoming a smarter city, enabled by the high speed cable network and ever-present and reliable high speed mobile data services. The network will offer public and private sector opportunities to capture and manage data for economic and social benefits. We will combine these initiatives with the continued development of skills and confidence for those living and working in Plymouth to allow them to make the most of the capabilities on offer here. This in turn will allow for the further expansion of digital services offered by the City Council and other public sector organisations as the primary mechanism for the delivery of their functions.

Off the shelf, digital enabled and technology led solutions, often using sensors, data and digital communication, can help to make existing systems such as traffic, public health and energy more efficient and predictable. The use of technology alone however is not the answer – industry led technology solutions may improve many of the symptoms but they are not so effective in tackling the causes. Really smart cities adopt a managed, proactive and tailored approach, where they decide where to invite innovation to support the delivery of their vision and broader outcomes. Really smart cities deliver greater equity, improved quality of life and citizen empowerment. They are outcome focussed rather than solution led. They
adopt more collaborative integrated service delivery models, finding collective rather than individual solutions, and empowering and enabling communities to creatively solve their challenges through open source and decentralisation.

Adopting a systems leadership approach, embodying these smart city attributes, will help us to deliver our three strategic themes, health, growing and international, in an integrated way whilst also remaining true to the Plan's underlying philosophy.

Plymouth Plan Governance
Figure 3 - Plymouth Plan Governance

Plymouth Plan Governance and Co-ordination

To ensure that this systems leadership approach is embraced from the very top, 'One Plymouth' is the overall champion for the Plymouth Plan. This provides the stable, multi-agency, senior level oversight that such a complex set of strategies requires.

The City Council provides overall coordination and management of the Plan on behalf of city partners, with Full Council responsible for incorporating the Plymouth Plan into the Council's Policy Framework and its own business planning processes.

Day to day coordination and management is carried out by a cross-department Plymouth Plan Delivery Team, augmented where necessary by representatives from partner agencies. The Service Director for Strategic Planning and Infrastructure has overall management accountability, reporting to the City Council's Corporate Management team.

The Plymouth Plan Delivery Team will support the Council, partners and partnerships with the implementation and delivery of the Plymouth Plan. Embedded as part of their day to day role the team will have oversight of all elements of delivery and champion the sovereignty of the Plan and its philosophy. The Plymouth Plan Delivery Team will actively manage relationships and help make connections across the themes of the plan.

An annual Plymouth Plan Convention is proposed to provide a forum for wider engagement with partners on the ongoing delivery and effectiveness of the Plymouth Plan.

The City Council's scrutiny function will be available to provide a structured overview and scrutiny process for the Plymouth Plan.

Plymouth Plan Delivery Framework

The delivery of the Plan is complex and requires the involvement of many partners. It also requires a strong discipline in order to ensure that there is no return to the days when the city had different strategic planning documents, set to different time lines, and sometimes with conflicting visions and priorities. A framework of delivery planning is therefore proposed, with all additional policy and delivery documents being based on the following key principles:

a. Clearly linked to the Plymouth Plan vision, strategy and policies. The same vision and strategic outcomes should be used. Plans should clearly demonstrate how they are taking forward the Plymouth Plan Philosophy and the two golden threads – welcoming city and green city.

b. Organised around consistent timescales, built around consistent time horizons/segments of time.

c. Seen as delivery plans of the Plymouth Plan, albeit some will be of a more strategic nature perhaps with a longer time horizon and others of a more detailed nature with a shorter time horizon.

d. Use consistent terminology.

A variety of delivery and action plans are likely to be needed to ensure that the strategy set out in the Plymouth Plan is delivered. It is proposed to give these the consistent title such as 'Plymouth Plan: Delivering a Healthy City', 'Plymouth Plan: Delivering a Sustainable Transport System' etc.

It is acknowledged that these delivery and action plans will cover a variety of time horizons and include varying levels of detail, depending on the subject matter and any statutory requirements. However, the consistent terminology will ensure a clear differentiation between strategy (which is in the Plymouth Plan) and delivery actions (which is the prime day to day focus of the City Council and its partners).

Plymouth Plan Communications Framework

One of our main challenges is to maintain a strong awareness across the Council and its partners of the Plymouth Plan as the city's single strategic long term plan. Although there have been some notable successes, most particularly the alignment of the Plymouth Plan to the Council's Medium Term Financial Strategy and its capital strategy, without clear communications there is a significant danger of returning to a situation where the city had a plethora of strategies, set to different timelines, and sometimes with conflicting visions and priorities. A Communications Plan will seek to do the following:

  • Keep the Plymouth Plan in the consciousness of Members and Officers across Plymouth City Council, and of One Plymouth and our key partners.
  • Encourage a mind-set and a language of delivery planning rather than strategy development.
  • Maintain awareness of the Plymouth Plan 'brand' and facilitate departments and partners to use this brand in an appropriate way.
  • Provide standard resources that can be used by Members, Offices and partners in applying and implementing the Plymouth Plan and using it to promote the city, and identify where they can get support and advice in relation to these matter.
  • Maintain and improve the interactive website which not only helps people to look at the Plymouth Plan in a way that meets their needs, but also helps to demonstrate how the Plan is performing.
  • Promote the interactive nature of the Plymouth Plan in the context of the performance and review system – such as the DATA Plymouth website and products such as the Plymouth Report.
Plan, Monitor, Manage process
Figure 4 - Plan, Monitor, Manage process

Plymouth Plan Performance Framework

The context for the performance framework is the strategic outcomes set out within the Plan, each with measures of success identified and from which a suite of indicators has been developed. The Plymouth Plan sits at the head of a dynamic system. The system also includes the capability to monitor performance, and to provide insight and intelligence for decision-makers on the findings of that monitoring. This enables reviews and refreshes to take place, ensuring the Plan remains relevant to current challenges. It follows a plan/monitor/manage approach:

  • Plan - as set out within the Plymouth Plan as the overarching strategic plan for the city, with associated delivery and organisational plans.
  • Monitor - using data collected and held in DATA Plymouth, an evidence bank for the Plymouth Plan which offers a range of open data, live statistics from national and local data sources, needs assessments and other useful reports and links.
  • Manage - involving the analysis of that data through the annual Plymouth Report, which gives an overview of the needs and issues facing the city – the state of the city. This is informed by more detailed documents and data sets such as the Joint Strategic Needs Assessment, most of which are held on the DATA Plymouth website. This report will facilitate discussions with partners regarding the delivery of the plan at the proposed annual Plymouth Plan Convention, and inform the need for further interventions.

The system also shows the role played by other key documents and processes, and importantly how they validate and reinforce each other:

The system works to financial years, in line with most of the partners. The cycle is:

  • April to July: most monitoring reports completed for previous financial year.

  • August to November: preparation and publication of Plymouth Report.

  • December to March: opportunity for any required changes to be reflected in delivery plans/budgets etc, and refresh of the Plymouth Plan itself if necessary.

  • Every five years a full review of the Plymouth Plan.

Measures of success and primary indicators

The primary Plymouth Plan indicators are identified below. This is a deliberately limited indicator set, structured around each of the Measures of Success identified in the Plymouth Plan. All the indicators will be included on DATA Plymouth, where a fuller list of secondary indicators and other key data can be found should deeper dives be necessary on any issue.

A Healthy City

A. People in Plymouth have the best start to life and improved health, increased life expectancy, and a better quality of life, helping to reduce the gap in health inequalities.

Primary indicator: Healthy life expectancy (males and females)

B. More people taking care of themselves.

Primary indicator: Emergency hospital admissions

C. More residents are contributing to and being involved in their community.

Primary indicator: Percentage of residents who regularly do voluntary work

D. People of Plymouth are well housed, live in good quality, well looked after neighbourhoods where they feel safe and happy.

Primary indicator: People of Plymouth are well housed and live in good quality, well looked after neighbourhoods where they feel safe and happy

E. Good quality and sustainable health and wellbeing services for people who need them, whether they are public services or care in the community.

Primary indicator: Overall satisfaction of people who use services with their care and support

View infographics on our progress against the Healthy City primary indicators on the DATA Plymouth website.

A Growing City

A. The population has grown close to the city's ambition of 300,000.

Primary indicator: Population using the Census mid-year estimate

B. Plymouth continues to be recognised as a leading Green City.

Primary indicator: Carbon emissions

C. Plymouth has a vibrant, productive, inclusive and innovative business sector with a workforce that is paid a living wage.

Primary indicator: GVA per hour
Primary indicator:
% of workforce at or above living wage

D. The people of Plymouth have the skills to be school ready and work ready to meet the needs of the city, enabling them to avoid poverty.

Primary indicator: % of Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) children achieving a good level of development
Primary indicator: Key Stage 4 Attainment 8 achieving the 'basics'

E. Plymouth continues to strengthen the conditions for increased growth, including ensuring effective infrastructure delivery.

Primary indicator: Capital investment in infrastructure

View infographics on our progress against the Growing City primary indicators on the DATA Plymouth website.

An International City

A. Plymouth continues to improve its diverse cultural and sporting experience with great venues, major events, good food and hospitality offer.

Primary indicator: Residents' view of Plymouth's offer

B. Plymouth is internationally renowned as a leading UK tourist destination.

Primary indicator: Visitor numbers

C. Plymouth is recognised internationally for expertise in marine science and high technology manufacturing.

Primary indicator: Jobs in high-tech manufacturing and scientific research and development

D. Plymouth's reputation for world class universities and research institutions continues to grow.

Primary indicator: Ranking of Plymouth's universities

E. Plymouth's reputation is strengthened as a welcoming, multicultural city where a broad range of partners promote the benefits of diversity.

Primary indicator: % of residents who agree with the statement: 'my local area is a place where people from different backgrounds get on well together'

View infographics on our progress against the International City primary indicators on the DATA Plymouth website.

Review of the Plymouth Plan and its delivery

A full review of the whole Plan will normally be undertaken every five years. This will entail a full review of the evidence base as well as the Plan itself, its outcomes, objectives and policies. This is a reflection of the high level strategic nature of the document and a recognition that the overall direction of travel should not normally need to be reviewed any more frequently than this.

There may be circumstances however, where a full or partial review of the Plan is necessary, in advance of the five yearly cycle. This may for example include:

  • Significant changes to one or more of the datasets relating to the characteristics of the city such as health or economic conditions.
  • A major shift in the macro economic climate.
  • More rapid or dramatic than expected changes to the climate or weather conditions, or
    extreme environmental events.

One of the issues that could have a significant impact on the Plan is Brexit, and the implications of this are likely to play out over a period of time as the country and its citizens adjust to the changed circumstances, whichever path we take. There could be a broad range of social and economic impacts and the situation will be kept under regular review. In particular we may need to monitor for changes in any of the above but particularly:

  • The labour market and workforce supply as a result of possible changed migration patterns.
  • Overall economic growth because of possible changes to the investment environment.
  • Supply chains, especially food and medicine, and the ability to import and export as a result of changes to customs, tariffs, and regulations.
  • Higher education because of withdrawal of research funding and reductions in the numbers of international students.
  • The possible impact of all of the above on community cohesion.

The success of the Plan goes far beyond the content of the Plan itself. Delivery is key, and needs to be able to respond quickly to changes, to ensure that interventions remain effective. The main focus of the review cycle, on an annual basis (or sometimes more frequently), will be the changes that may be needed to the actual delivery of the Plan.

The Plymouth Plan Convention will provide an opportunity for partners, stakeholders and the community to come together to consider progress and any new emerging issues and to review the effectiveness of the Plan. The Convention will be informed by the Plymouth Report and the Plymouth Plan Annual Progress Report, and in addition will be able to call on all the up to the minute and more detailed data held within DATA Plymouth. This review process will not take away the possible urgent need to consider changes to delivery that may be highlighted outside of the annual process.

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