Live Blog: National Planning Policy Framework

The new draft National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) was published this morning, Planning has been following events and reaction throughout the day…

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

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.”

  • Paul Jones

    Is not a draft?

    • Paul Jones

      You have now added the word – thanks

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  • RichardW

    Can anyone explain what weight should be given to this during the ‘consultation’ period? I can understand the status of draft legislation; but policy is different isn’t it? Does it not have immediate effect upon publication unless prefaced by some sort of disclaimer “we are considering a new policy direction . . . ” This however appears as a statement of current policy as of today. The introduction includes a ministerial statement that this is his policy and it replaces all existing government planning policy.

    • andrew lainton

      There is caselaw that draft national policy can be a material planning consideration but not a strong one – hence Savill’s licking their lips at increased fee income above – ill dig it out and post a link.

      • andrew lainton

        Having read through and compared to the previous leaked draft a month ago there are very few textual changes, but a few editorial changes. The general thrust is much the same as before with a host of major and highly controversial changes to planning policy.

        It is noticeable how the comments in the press release are all from one side of the development community.

        It is also noticeable how closed the consultation process is – closed source planning – if an LPA attempted just to put a document on its website, only praised by development interests, no opportunity to comment line by line online, and with only meetings to listin to the new policy being ‘explained’ with no meaningful opportunity to contribute it would be slaughtered.

      • andrew lainton

        I did a note on this RichardW – the key reference is that on emerging national policy in the 2004 Planning General Principles – there has also been an appeal where the issue turned on the weight to be given to emerging national policy in recent days.

        So all agendas and appeal decisions will need a supplementary note on this in coming days.

  • Tim Farley

    Interesting that there is no reference in the housing section to previously developed land, yet the definition of it still precludes back gardens.

  • Jason Whitfield

    The PPGS, PPS and Circulars have rarely been the core issue of a bloated planning system. It is the pages and pages of actual legislation, both domestic and EU wide which ultimately dictates the barriers developers find so “complex and bureaucratic”.

  • Mathias

    Be interested in views on application of presumption… If LPA has assessed need for 10,000 houses, and proposes sites to meet this need (all viable and available and agreed by local developers), can the LPA resist the development of alternative additional sites that have similar sustainability credentials?

    • Mathias

      Sorry, of course I meant to say “locally assessed a need for 10,000 houses, and proposes sites to meet the centrally-imposed requirement for 12,000 houses”. Hmmm… does anyone else suddenly miss RSSs?

    • andrew lainton

      Depends if you have an up to date adopted plan – and that adopted plan – (assuming you have a need for 10k over 15 years) allocates 10k/3 +20%= 3,600 in the developable phase.

      If no then the ‘double presumption’ in para 110 applies (taken straight from lifting the burden 1985) and ‘planning permission should be granted’, no if no buts.

      If yes then the section 30(6) presumption in favour of the development plan applies in law – and in policy as up to date – although the presumption in favour of sustainable development in para 14. of the NPPF does not cover this circumstance, only the other three of the four logical possibilities – which means if the local plan can justify setting a cap on housing over the plan period you could refuse it. Para .19 of the draft NPPF confirms planning is still plan-led.

      If you have only a draft plan then you couldn’t refuse it as ‘other identified sites’ (PPS3) no longer count as part of the 5 year supply. I have pointed out on my blog a recent recovered appeal where the least sustainable site of many around a town was refused on a recovered appeal, but where the SoS would have no option to approve such a poor scheme once the NPPF was considered.

      You will see how ridiculous this is. Also by applying the +20% to one phase only, rather than say +15% over the whole plan period (‘one or two years spare supply=14%) you cant simply roll forward a plan 5 years – every 5 years – crazy.

      So this is supposed to be a document that can only be understood by non-planning experts!!!!!

  • Pandora

    This is no time to be a planning officer. However, an excellent time to be a property lawyer (as if wasn’t always a good time to be one).

    Planning officers are going to be on a par with traffic wardens in the eyes of developers (how dare these people stand in my way) and locals (how dare these people not stand in their way) ….. Developers will assume Divine Right, locals will assume Brown Paper Envelopes … and the Government will be smug because their cronies will be able to use the planning system to start or stop developments at will (having the resources to do either) whilst the rest of us will have them forced upon us whether we want it or not and whether it is “sustainable” or not.

    That is life in the free market economy – you know, the one that led to the banking crash.

  • Captain Pugwash

    Interesting to see that development on sites protected by Birds and Habitats Directive are explicitly excluded from the presumption in favour of development. I wonder if other strong policies (Green Belt) also give exemption? What about other EU Directives – Air Quality?

  • Mathias

    Another thought: how can the government be so delighted with itself at reducing the volume of national planning policy on housing, commercial development, open space, green belt, minerals (but NOT waste), local transport and infrastructure, communications, heritage and nature conservation from over 1000 to 52 pages, in the same month as publishing over 600 pages of national planning policy JUST on energy infrastructure?

    • Duncan

      Indeed. That is an anomaly. Perhaps they think the NPSs deal with the Important Stuff and the rest is just fluff?

  • Chris

    RTPI president does not favour market led approach. We have a housing crisis in this country! That ‘market led’ approach is peoples desperate need for housing at an affordable price and jobs.

    In terms of being a bad day for planning officers, you now have the mandate to plan! Tell your Members that the issue cannot be ignored any longer and go and create sustainable development. A new town perhaps, based around high quality public transport. Why see this as a bad thing, be bold.

    • chris bamber

      Spot on about the ‘mandate to plan’, Chris, But there is no reason to suppose that a market led approach would meet or even reduce housing shortages. The cause of the ‘affordability’ problem is the collapse of social house building post Thatcher. Private sector building has, the credit crunch years apart, been fairly steady over the years and there is no evidence that the private sector actually wants to build many more houses – why would they, if that would cause prices to drop?

      New towns of course (proper new towns, that is, as against big housing estates in the countryside) have always been overwhelmingly public sector-driven.

      • Duncan

        I think the modest rate of private sector building may reflect a specific dysfunctional market rather than the failure of markets altogether. Of course, the market for land and property isn’t like the market for beans or mobile phones – it’s much too hindered by too few landowners and developers, too little effective choice in land supply (because of planning, land-banking and just lack of physical space in-and-around the places that people want to live (e.g. London).

        There’s a good case for effectively nationalising land, planning for its future use and allowing developers (and individuals) to bid to build on it. Of course, that assumes that planning authorities don’t themselves get greedy, and that existing communities don’t use their democratic power to dissuade councils for planning for more housing. Darn it, I don’t know the solution!

    • Richard Blyth


  • Michael Tyce

    Perhaps the Vandals as theyapproached Rome, sent a manifesto a little like the NPPF to announce what was to occur.
    How could a Conservative Government, of all things, show so little appreciation of the Countryside Inheritance for which Britain is rightly treasured around the world, and which is of such huge economic value to us, as to encourage the bulldozers to trash it in the way they are doing.
    And as for a Neighbourhood Planning process which forbids the victims from saying “no” to unacceptable development but encourages them bribed to say “yes, hit us harder”, it is the depths of cynicism to dress this up as giving local people a voice in their fate.
    As written this is nothing short of a Death Warrant for Rural England.

  • Chris

    Fair point on delivery of housing. I went to a seminar recently where it was demonstrated that private house building has only fallen slightly but the public sector is building practically nothing.

  • VBP

    Paragraph 8 states: The framework should be read and interpreted as a whole.
    Could anyone enlighten me on how this would work and how it differs from existing policies?

  • andy

    Im sure there are a whole host of contradictions, holes and grey areas in the document (I havent read it all). However one that confuses me a little is the role of Neighbourhood Plans and the sentance in Para 51 that states that where neighbourhood policies are in conflict with local plan policies, neighbourhood policies take precedence. Firstly, can a Neighbourhood Plan be in general conformity with a Local Plan and still contain conflicting (not just different but conflicting) policies? If so, and if many Neighbourhood Plans are actually produced or at least sponsored by developers (as is highly possible), it would seem that this allows them to make up their own policies no matter if they conflict with the Local Plan.

    Generally, this presumtion in favour of sustainable development is all very well, and you can see this leading to more reccommendations for approval at committee (if planning permission is needed at all). But getting something through committee, even if supported by a NP, is a different matter. I see more and more developments overturned at committee on the basis of ‘localism’ and i dont think any policy changes can address that.

    Maybe the next legislative change is to set a national system of delegation?

    • andrew lainton

      There is a space between ‘general conformity’ with the higher level policy and being more locally detailed and specific – exactly as in the old structure plan/local plan days. Then you had to had to be in general conformity but the more recently adopted plan prevailed, and lower level plans over higher level ones if there was a conflict. The NPPF doesn’t really explain this clearly. Old versions of PPG12 took three paras to go through the different logical combinations.

      There are strict limits within English Common law on a local veto/parish veto. In a system which is evidence led and plan led any variance to wider strategy to the benefit or disebenefit of an individual property owner could be found to be unfair – indeed in other jurisdictions we have the concept of ‘spot zoning’ which in general has found to be illegal even unconstitutional. My instinct is that sooner of later a district level decision to allow or disallow growth at a neighbourhood level solely because of local preference and irrespective of the evidence will be successfully challenged in court – see

  • Plinythemiddleone

    Once again it pays to look at the Impact Assessment for the interesting stuff. It says in one part:

    “As described earlier the annual cost of development control to the economy is estimated at up to £3bn, of which a major component was the financial cost of holding onto land and other assets whilst projects are evaluated (Ball, ibid). An increase in the probability of being granted planning permission (i.e. an increased approval rate) may reduce these costs as the uncertainty is reduced.”

    The study by Michael Ball is cited. What the Impact Assessment doesn’t say is that the Ball study concluded that the difference in time taken to approve planning permissions is practically random taking into account a lot of factors that might have made a difference. It seems to me that dealing with a shortened NPPF is the last thing that will have an influence. Essentially, the Impact Assesment is probably not a good place to find a justification for the NPPF to exist. I doubt anyone properly read the Study, eh?

  • andrew lainton

    First recovered appeal post draft NPPF just in

    The Secretary of State has had regard to the Draft National Planning Policy Framework document, issued for consultation on 25 July, but as this document is
    still in draft form and subject to change, he has accorded its policies little weight

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