Live Blog: National Planning Policy Framework
Watch out for news coverage of its contents online later on in Planning’s daily e-bulletin and over on Twitter – follow @J_J_Carpenter @PlanningMD and @PlanningMag for updates throughout the day. Friday’s copy of Planning magazine will have further NPPF-related analysis and reaction.
10.00 Decentralisation and planning minister Greg Clark publishes the Foreward to National Planning Policy Framework on his website. “By replacing over a thousand pages of national policy with around fifty, written simply and clearly, we are allowing people and communities back into planning”, he says.
12.00 Draft NPPF published http://www.communities.gov.uk/publications/planningandbuilding/draftframework
12.32: DCLG publishes raft of positive comments alongside press release…
Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said: “Our Natural Environment White Paper set out how we will not only continue to protect our countryside and green spaces, but improve them. This new planning framework will help make this a reality. It will give local communities the power to protect green spaces that mean so much to them, while still giving the highest protection to our treasured landscapes such as national parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It will also ensure that development needed to grow the economy is carried out in a sustainable way.”
Business Secretary Vince Cable said: “Strong, sustainable growth is the Government’s top priority. The new proposals published today, a key element of the plan for growth, set out plans that are responsive to business whilst protecting the concerns of communities and their environment.
“Along with the powerful presumption for sustainable development, the new approach to planning will be a significant step forward in creating the right conditions for businesses to start up, invest, grow and create jobs.”
Chair of the Major Developers Group, Sir Stuart Lipton said: “We are delighted with the results of the proposals in the Framework as concepts. We have for years suggested that the planning system, with its accumulation of layers of directives and strategies needed radical reform. We support the strategies of the Framework which we feel will provide a more effective planning system. It will have regard for a balance of the interests of the community, the environment and the growth agenda.”
Chairman of National Association of Local Councils, Michael Carter said: “The National Association is delighted that the overarching aim of the document is to empower communities, including very local parish and town councils, to shape the areas in which they live. We agree that they should have a major say in where housing, and other types of sustainable development, should go. The National Association believes that this is vital for sustainable economic growth in England. We welcome the fact that local communities will have the power to set their own standards that will meet the needs of local circumstances.”
Head of external affairs at the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors Stephen Thornton, said: “The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors welcomes the Government’s draft National Planning Policy Framework as a significant step forward in unlocking the planning system to deliver the growth required by UK Plc. We are pleased to see this concise outline of national planning policy at a strategic level rather than the thousands of pages of guidance that currently lose the thrust of what the Government is trying to achieve.”
Chief Executive of the Institute of Archaeologists, Peter Hinton said: “The Framework sets out clearly Government’s twin objectives of conserving the historic environment in a sustainable manner and of ensuring wide public benefit from expert investigations of those elements affected by development. We look forward to continuing to work with government in the coming weeks to make sure that the key heritage messages of the framework can be fully understood and implemented by heritage and property professionals, by local government, and by the communities they all serve.”
Director of Policy and Strategy of London First, John Dickie said: “London First welcomes the publication of the draft National Planning Policy Framework which we believe will encourage growth and investment by consolidating planning guidance into a clear and concise document. Ending pages and pages of overlapping guidance and circulars has to be right. The draft Framework published today also signals the Government’s continued commitment to liberalise the planning system which we strongly support.”
Chief executive of the British Property Federation Liz Peace, said: “Planning policy should be streamlined, succinct and to the point if it is to deliver the growth and sustainable development that this country needs.
“We understand that the new draft Framework follows closely the version submitted by the Practitioners Advisory Group which fully incorporated these principles. On that basis we will have no problem in giving today’s Framework our ringing endorsement.”
Member of the Practitioners Advisory Group John Rhodes said: “Most people involved in the planning industry recognise that it has become too complex and bureaucratic – and that it has lost sight of its principal purpose, which should be to deliver the homes, jobs and great places the country needs in an environmentally responsible way. The draft framework takes the opportunity to do something about that by making a real contribution to economic recovery and environmental objectives.”
DCLG also adds comment from the Chief Executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, Paul Everitt. He said: “We welcome today’s consultation on the National Planning Policy Framework, which looks to encourage the installation of charging infrastructure for ultra-low carbon vehicles in new developments. We hope that, through their planning powers, local authorities use this opportunity to deliver a comprehensive charging network, working with industry, to advance low and ultra-low carbon motoring in the UK.”
12.53: Other reaction starting to come in now.
Roger Hepher, Head of Planning at Savills, commented: “The NPPF is a welcome document. It seeks to keep what is generally regarded as good about existing planning policy, whilst introducing a decisive shift towards promoting development and prioritising economic growth.”
“It ought to herald a significant upturn in many forms of development activity. We can expect to see a good many planning applications in the near future, as developers take advantage of the Government’s pro-development stance. We must hope that ministers will have the conviction to enforce the new approach through their own decisions on specific schemes.”
“Developers must, of course, be aware that the NPPF is at this stage a draft, and that, even when it is finalised, there will doubtless be an interesting period during which appeal decisions put flesh on the new bones.”
Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) Chief Executive James Lowman said: “Policy announced today must be a blueprint for modernising and transforming our centres especially smaller market towns and suburban high streets suffering from decline. The starting point for this has to be strong national policy that robustly rejects out of town developments where in town alternatives are available.
“We believe that over the next three months, there is an opportunity to ensure that the policy published today is robust enough to safeguard high streets for the next generation”
Robin Shepherd, Partner at Barton Willmore commented: “We welcome the shorter and clearer statement of policy that the NPPF seeks to provided, as well as its concise and readable nature. There is no doubt that the progrowth focus on delivery and making development happen has to be a good thing for the nation as a whole. The focus upon planning being a positive, proactive and collaborative process is also welcomed
“However, we remain concerned that the effectiveness of the NPPF will depend on how it is interpreted in practice by LPAs and others involved in planning. There is
still much scope for those opposing development to claim that proposed projects aren’t sustainable – on a range of potential criteria – and use restrictive interpretations to subvert the positive, pro-growth policy.
“Unfortunately, despite the Minister’s intentions as expressed in his Foreword, opponents of development could still use technical and academic interpretations of sustainability to block projects and therefore unless the NPPF has “teeth” requiring LPA’s to embrace the pro-growth agenda, the planning system could remain a deeply technical exercise, the preserve of the knowledgeable and the technically skilled.
“The draft NPPF clearly sees Local Plans as a single document for each Local Authority’s area – indeed, it suggests that special justification needs to be given for
splitting down into more than one document. It will take time for this requirement to become embedded into the planning system – the more so, since the new Local
Plans will inevitably require more detail than has often been the case for Core Strategies in the LDFs. But this change is to be welcomed – there are many in the
planning profession who felt the LDF process was just too cumbersome from the start – the return to a single, District or Borough-wide Local Plan will be far easier for
all to follow and participate in.”
David Frost, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said: “Businesses have long called for greater speed, clarity and certainty in the planning system. Companies will be encouraged to see that the new National Planning Policy Framework explicitly states that yes, rather than no, should be the default answer for planning applications that will deliver local growth and jobs.
“Businesses will welcome the concept of shorter, simpler planning rules, but they need to see more than just a new policy document to regain confidence in the planning system. A pro-growth approach must fast become reality on the ground, with local councils saying ‘yes’ to business growth and expansion far more than they do at present.”
Friends of the Earth campaigner Paul de Zylva said: “The right planning decisions are crucial to protect our green and pleasant land – but Ministers have come up with a developers’ charter which puts the interests of business ahead of people and the environment.
“Behind some nice buzz words the planning system is now so loaded in favour of building projects that it puts local communities and environmental protection in jeopardy.
“The Government must radically rewrite its policy and the Localism Bill to ensure we build a safe, green future that cuts carbon, protects wildlife and benefits people.”
Richard Hebditch, Campaigns Director at Campaign for Better Transport, said: “The NPPF has some warm words about sustainable communities but it effectively means that it will be very hard for local communities to stop damaging out of town development or sprawling new developments. Communities opposed to damaging developments will have to prove that it would breach the whole document, which is itself written in such a way as to make that a near impossible task. Policies in the NPPF that could be used to stop a damaging development have caveats that make them meaningless, such as ‘where practical and consistent’ or ‘where reasonable to do so’.
“The published draft is practically identical to the draft that was leaked at the beginning of July, except that a new chapter has been added on sustainable communities. But this new section will be worthless as the rest of the document pushes local authorities into accepting short-term growth that will harm our long-term needs to tackle congestion and cut carbon from transport.”
Emmalene Gottwald, Senior Planning Advisor at WWF-UK, said: “WWF is concerned that, despite the welcome attempt to give local communities more say in planning for their area, there remains a strong push from central government that development which supports economic growth should be given priority.
“This approach merely reinforces the boom and bust cycle by encouraging lots of development now to meet immediate demand, with the environmental fallout and social consequences to be dealt with at some unknown time in the future.
“The Government’s aspirations for the reformed planning system outlined in the foreword are undermined by a presumption in favour of development that makes it too difficult to prove when a proposal might be unsustainable.”
Katja Hall, CBI Chief Policy Director, said: “It’s vital there is a presumption in favour of sustainable development to balance the shift towards localism with the need for economic growth. This should send out a strong signal to local authorities that it is possible to grow the economy while behaving responsibly to our environment. I hope this change will help to attract the £200 billion in investment we need to build our decarbonised energy future.
“Cutting back the reams of planning policy and guidance we currently have makes absolute sense. A clear, digestible guide to local planning decisions will ensure that local authorities are well-informed about national priorities and the need for development.
“The publication of this new framework is a chance for the Government to rebuild investor confidence in a planning system which has been shaken by a year of rapid reforms and ripped-up policy.”
Ian Anderson Head of National and Retail Planning, CB Richard Ellis – on the ‘Presumption in favour of Sustainable Development’: “The principle is that development should be permitted as the ‘golden thread’ through planning with the default position is “yes” to development proposals and will be good news for the development industry, although potentially not for existing owners.
“What remains unclear however is the position of ‘localism’ and ‘neighbourhood planning’ set against such a strong statement on ‘growth’. There is very likely to be tension between the two in what could be a new ‘laissez faire’ era in the Government’s approach to planning: It’s likely to get very messy.
“In immediate practical terms, although the presumption is only in draft and should only be given limited weight, it is a relevant material consideration. It could therefore be used as part of applications and appeals to encourage an early grant of consent.’
On Town Centre First: “The presumption in favour of sustainable development, in combination with the weakening of Town Centre First could be a ‘game changer’ for town centre investment and could promote opportunities ‘out of centre’ as cheaper, quicker and in some eyes worthy of speculation but will make defending longer term town centre options more difficult.”
NPPF ‘misssed opportunity’ says RTPI: President Richard Summers said: “The draft National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) is a missed opportunity.
“We are concerned that the draft NPPF will not secure balanced economic and housing growth across England. It fails to set out a vision for the development that is needed to support a growing population and to promote economic growth across the country and that is effectively linked with infrastructure to redress existing and potential geographical and social disparities.
“Economic growth is generally set to trump the aspirations of local communities expressed in local and neighbourhood plans. The relationship between the presumption in favour of sustainable development and the primacy of locally-led development plans is not clear. It appears that the NPPF could direct local policies to be set aside to deliver the government’s growth agenda in response to market-led demands rather than to promote truly sustainable development for neighbourhoods and for local and wider than local areas.”
“However, it does begin to go in the right direction towards a National Spatial Planning Framework for England that the RTPI has campaigned for over more than ten years. The Institute looks forward to continuing its dialogue with the government during the NPPF consultation period and beyond to help secure truly sustainable development policies and a workable planning system for the future.”
Shaun Spiers, CPRE Chief Executive, said: “The draft planning framework is an improvement on the version we saw earlier this month, but major problems remain. The new framework will make the countryside and local character much less safe from damaging and unnecessary development. If it is not amended, there will be battles against development across the country that will make the public revolt against the sale of the forests look like a tea party.”
CPRE fears pressure on the countryside from damaging development will grow due to:
- Loss of emphasis on brownfield regeneration – as a result of the removal of the national brownfield target and the failure to promote efficient use of land
- Over-allocation of land for new housing – the draft NPPF requires local councils to allocate at least 20% additional sites for housing over and above the existing five year supply
- Weakening of the ‘town centre first’ policy by removing office development from the sequential test
- Pressure for increased car use – by removing the requirement to set maximum parking standards for non-residential parking in major development
- Abolition of exceptions policy which allows small scale affordable housing to be built in rural settlements, which is likely to add to pressure for market housing and reduce the supply of affordable housing
- Weakening of controls over outdoor advertisements, including no mention of billboards being inappropriate in the countryside
- Changes to Green Belt policy which would allow local communities to support building which would previously have been restricted
Spiers added: “The Government admits that policy changes, such as removing priority for brownfield development and allowing ‘Community Right to Build’ schemes could lead to greater development on greenfield land. Although they say protected landscapes, like Green Belts and AONBs, will still be protected, and that is to be welcomed, it seems it is open season for the rest of the countryside, including some of our finest agricultural land. We are fear that in reality what is proposed will weaken Green Belt protection, in spite of Ministers’ intentions.
“CPRE welcomes much of the thinking behind the Government’s reform of the planning system. We do need more people engaging with planning, and its complexity has become a barrier. But with their crude focus on economic growth and default ‘yes’ to development, Ministers are storing up plenty of unintended consequences for the future.
“Over the next few months the Government needs to listen and make further improvements or the consequences for the English countryside and the character of our towns and villages will be grave.”
Stewart Baseley, Executive Chairman at HBF said: “The emphasis in the NPPF on achieving an improved housing supply is positive. But the how Local Authorities implement the policy remains critical and will require a change of culture across the board if it is to be transformational. The nation’s housing shortage dictates that If Local Authorities are not implementing this document properly, central Government will have to strengthen the guidance ever further. This is the most important planning document since the Town and Country Planning Act of 1947 – it is vital we get it right.”
Kate Henderson, Chief Executive of planning think-tank the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) said: “The Association supports the practical improvement of the planning process, so long as change is based on clear evidence and the outcomes promote sustainable development, and in particular social justice. The Government’s framework published today, seeks to simplify and streamline planning policy, however in doing so there is a vagueness around some of the key concepts, such as the presumption in favour of sustainable development, which may be subject to clarification through the courts.”
“While we share the Government’s ambition of making planning more accessible to communities, making something shorter does not automatically make it clearer. Planning has to deal with complex problems and sometimes needs detailed policy responses.”
“It is also important to recognise that the NPPF will require more than just rhetorical force to ensure effective outcomes which work at both the local and national level. For example, sustainable transport measures are only encouraged ‘where practical’. In reality this may mean the lowest standard of transport infrastructure will be delivered, and does not give local authorities the means to demand high standards.”
Cllr David Parsons, Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Environment Board, said: “Councils want a streamlined planning system that can deliver the housing and regeneration the country needs, while ensuring communities get the type and quality of development they want.
“Cutting down the 2,500 pages of planning rules and putting in their place something far more concise and efficient will reduce a burden on local authorities and developers.
“We urgently need to get Britain building again. In doing so we must ensure that both residents and people in need of housing have a powerful voice to express the type of development they would like to see. It is vital that the removal of red tape being proposed does not have the unintended consequence of undermining the power of local communities.
“The planning framework should ensure that new housing and commercial buildings match the economic, environmental and social needs of a particular area. We need to see a balance struck between encouraging new building, and ensuring that large-scale new development comes with the infrastructure necessary to support it.
“We will shortly be putting forward our own proposals on how the framework can be implemented in a way which gives councils a realistic amount of time to get their local plans finalised and approved.”
Richard Ford head of planning at international law firm Pinsent Masons said: “We welcome the NPPF as a strong attempt to streamline planning guidance. It is certainly largely pro-development and so I expect a chorus of dissent from some pressure groups and campaigners who are concerned that caution is being thrown to the wind. When it comes into force, I am sure there will also be a period of some hesitation where we will see a new set of appeal decisions and inevitably some legal challenges. However, hopefully the areas where further clarity is needed will be ironed out quickly.”
Edward Cooke, Executive Director at BCSC, commented: “We continue to support Government’s ambition to reform and streamline the planning system and there is much to commend in this draft, including a commitment to the pursuit of policies to support the viability and vitality of town centres is welcome.
“However, we are concerned that, without a more overt policy commitment to a town centre first approach, the argument about development will simply shift from planning to the courts as debate over the strength of sequential testing as a mechanism of controlling development becomes subject to appeal and judicial review. This will further delay important town centre regeneration.
“Elsewhere, Government has sent a clear message in support of urban growth – such as Greg Clark’s recent appointment as Minister for Cities and Mary Portas’ high-profile review of town centres. For these efforts to bear fruit, we believe that they must be aligned with a complementary approach to retail planning. We will be advising Government accordingly in our response to this consultation.”
Charity Civic Voice via twitter: “At a time when Gov is promising communities more control the draft NPPF puts interests of big business over local people + their environment”.
Jack Dromey MP, Labour’s Shadow Local Government Minister said: “The Government has spent months dithering over the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) causing chaos in the planning system. In the meantime, investment by house builders, developers, energy companies, and transport organisations has been put off due to the uncertainty, damaging this country’s economic growth.”
“Pushing this document out during the recess when it should have been published to support the scrutiny of the Localism Bill and whilst Parliament was in session is unacceptable. This is not the way to begin consultation on a document of such national importance.”
“Labour supports the simplification of planning policy but it is important that our planning system is based on sound evidence and has clear objectives such as achieving sustainable development and social justice.”
“Labour welcomes attempts to increase housing and other development to meet our growing housing and economic need but it is vital that it is sustainable development and does not come at the expense of our green spaces, town centres and does not increase social inequality.”
“Serious concerns are already being raised about the content of the NPPF including weakening the definition of sustainable development, the protections for our countryside, and green spaces, the loss of emphasis on brownfield sites, and the protection for our high streets. There are also concerns about how the vital data collection, essential to support the decision making process, will be funded”.
“We will be scrutinising the document over the coming months and we will be fighting to ensure the necessary changes are made so we have a planning system fit for purpose.”
Julie Foley, Head of the Sustainable Places at the Environment Agency said: “Planning policy has a key role to play in protecting and enhancing the environment for people and wildlife. We welcome the NPPF consultation and will respond in our role as a statutory planning consultee. We look forward to continuing to work with Government departments to establish how the NPPF and other planning reforms will contribute to the achievement of sustainable development accounting for flood risk and climate change issues.”
Chief Executive of The Prince’s Foundation, Hank Dittmar said: “In his foreword, Minister Greg Clark has rightly said that the delivery of sustainable development must be at the heart of this new framework. The framework appears to both simpler and robust and we look forward to commenting to help ensure that quality development for people and the environment remains at it’s core.”
Michael Gallimore, Head of Planning at Hogan Lovells, said: “The draft National Planning Policy Framework provides a very clear signal of the Government’s commitment to growth and economic development. The planning system will need to play its part in meeting that new agenda. Developers, local planning authorities and communities will need to adjust to the new mind-set that all development proposals should be approved wherever possible.
“The direction of travel is flagged throughout the draft Framework. For instance, a key shift is in the move from “development control” to “development management”. Instead of finding reasons to resist development, local authorities will need to adapt to approving development provided that the key sustainability principles are met. The Framework does, however, recognise the need for an appropriate balance and that development should be of good design and appropriately located. The Framework does not provide a blank cheque to approve every planning application, but it does set down a new start point when considering applications.
“The presumption in favour of sustainable development is clearly set out and is stated to be “at the heart of the planning system”. As a means of supporting sustainable economic growth, it is particularly significant that all Plans at the local level should not only be based up on the presumption in favour of sustainable development but should also themselves “contain” the presumption, with clear policies to guide how the presumption will be applied locally.
“The Framework also recognises that viability has a key role to play in the planning process. Viability is a theme which runs throughout the document – for example the statement that local planning authorities should avoid unnecessary conditions or Section 106 obligations particularly where this would undermine the viability of development proposals. This guidance is particularly important in the current economic climate.”
Paul King, CEO of UK-Green Building Council commented: “We welcome the publication of the draft NPPF. We support its intention to simplify the planning process, and applaud its emphasis on the need to achieve ‘radical reductions’ in greenhouse gas emissions through both new developments and through support for the refurbishment of existing buildings. We also welcome the proposals for local authorities to work across boundaries to ensure that the delivery of sustainable community infrastructure is strategic.
“However, we would like to see greater clarity around what constitutes ‘sustainable development’, in order to ensure that the highest possible standards of sustainability are reached in each local authority, and in order to provide certainty to the development industry. Experience suggests that when the industry has clarity on what it needs to achieve, it is more than capable of rising to the challenge and delivering world-class projects like the construction projects for the London 2012 Games.”
Shaun Andrews, head of investor and developer at property consultancy GL Hearn, said: “The draft NPPF is the most positive approach to planning seen in over two decades, with a genuine presumption in favour of sustainable development that would have bite right through the local plan and application determination process, now re-named development management rather than development control, a subtle but significant change in emphasis.”