What is a sequential test?

A sequential test is a planning tool that aims to ensure that development is located in the most sustainable and least vulnerable areas in terms of flood risk, retail and commercial viability, and transport accessibility. It is based on the principle of prioritising sites that are in or near town centres, then edge of centre locations, and only considering out of centre sites if no suitable alternatives are available. The sequential test is required by the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), which is the primary policy document guiding planning decisions in England.

A developer should perform a sequential test when they are proposing a development that falls under the category of main town centre uses, such as retail, leisure, entertainment, office, or residential uses. These uses are expected to be located in town centres, unless there is clear evidence that they cannot be accommodated there. The developer should also perform a sequential test when they are proposing a development in flood zone 2 or 3, which are areas with medium or high probability of flooding. These areas should be avoided for development unless there are no reasonably available sites in areas with lower flood risk.

The sequential test involves comparing the proposed site with other available sites within a defined search area, and assessing their suitability, availability, and viability for the intended development. The developer should consult with the local planning authority to agree on the search area and the criteria for site selection. The developer should also provide evidence to justify why the proposed site is preferable to any alternative sites that have lower flood risk or higher town centre accessibility.

The sequential test is an important part of the planning process, as it helps to promote sustainable development and reduce the impact of flooding on people and property. By following the sequential test, developers can demonstrate that they have considered all reasonable options and chosen the most appropriate site for their development.