Skip to content

Security considerations in the planning process

The planning process has a key role in making places – recommending how and where buildings should be built, what they should be used for and how they should fit into the local surroundings

Last Updated 13 April 2023

The planning process

The planning process has a key role in making places – recommending how and where buildings should be built, what they should be used for and how they should fit into the local surroundings. 

architects working in an office


Factors taken into consideration encompass what should be built where, the spaces that are created around buildings and the balance of economic, environmental and social impact of development. This includes:

  • job creation;
  • regeneration;
  • sustainability;
  • resilience; safety;
  • and security.

Understanding the role of security

The positioning of buildings relative to their environs, and the layout and design of the space in and around them, can make these places less vulnerable to terrorist attack and, should an attack take place, better protect people from its impact.

When should security be considered?

As with any design considerations, it is most effective if protective security measures are considered as early as possible in the planning and development process. This does not just mean at pre-application stage – it means from the point that any local policy is developed.


Dealing with sensitive information in planning applications and appeals

It is good practice for the applicant to discuss with the local planning authority what level of detail should be included in the application in order for a decision to be made.

Provisions are made for sensitive sites under Sensitive Information in Planning Applications (SIPA) (information on SIPA is provided further down this page).

Where applications have been certified by a Counter Terrorism Security Adviser (CTSA) or other security adviser, as providing counter-terrorism protective security measures that are proportionate to the risk, there should generally be no need for the applicant to include sensitive information.

People working with plans on a tablet


In Scotland, the application can be accompanied by a written statement from the applicant that, in the opinion of the applicant, the information relates to national security and/or the information relates measures taken, or to be taken, to ensure the security of any premises or property, and the public disclosure of that information would be contrary to the national interest.

However, the need to provide sensitive security-related information cannot always be avoided. Where this is the case, the applicant may request specific information handling requirements are put in place. For example, that security information is held separately from the main Planning Register and only made available to enquirers after a specific request. A CTSA or other security adviser will need to certify that the information to be kept separate is sensitive before this procedure can be followed.

The level of information provided about specific security measures, whether a site itself is sensitive or not, can also be restricted.

Information such as descriptive labelling of sensitive areas such as control rooms and particular attributes of: 

  • traditional hardware such as CCTV;
  • features which control access to areas of assets not accessible to the public; and
  • physical infrastructure like bollards and barriers to mitigate attacks by hostile vehicles,

do not need to be, and should not be, provided as part of a planning application or planning appeal.

When a planning appeal goes to an inquiry, the applicant can apply to the Secretary of State for a national security direction under Section 321 Town and Country Planning Act 1990, such that the ‘closed evidence’ would only be seen by named persons, probably including a special advocate to represent the interests of those who cannot see or hear the ‘closed evidence’.

It is important that these types of measures are used, as once information is in the public domain, it is virtually impossible to delete, destroy, remove or secure all copies of it.

Sensitive information should also be excluded or the level information reduced in public consultations and in any promotional material or articles about developments or projects.

SIPA (Sensitive Information in Planning Applications)

NPSA has worked with the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) to ensure that provisions are in place for sensitive assets to prevent sensitive information being exposed to the public during the planning application process. Sensitive assets include embassies and critical national infrastructure.


Full information on this process is available here.

Further information about handling planning applications on crown land is available here and in the 02/2006 Circular.

Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects

A Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project, or NSIP, is a major infrastructure development in England or Wales and includes projects such as power plants, large renewable energy projects, new airports, airport extensions and major road projects. A NSIP is considered by the Government to be so big and nationally important that permission to build them it to be given at a national level, by the responsible Government minister (the ‘Secretary of State’). Instead of applying to the local authority for Planning Permission, the developer must apply to the Planning Inspectorate for a different permission called a Development Consent Order (DCO).

The process for applying for a Development Consent Order is set out in the Planning Act 2008. It came into force in March 2010 and was introduced to streamline the decision-making process for NSIPs, making it fairer and faster for communities and developers alike.

There are similar provision to SIPA when projects are going through the DCO process. When the lead government department is satisfied that current and potential security needs are adequately addressed, it will provide confirmation to the Examining Authority who need not give any further consideration to the details of the security measures during the examination. This provision should help to ensure that sensitive information about security is not put into the public domain during the DCO process.

For more information on NSIPs please see the Planning Inspectorate website.

Did you find this page useful? Yes No