Decentralisation minister says there will be “transitional arrangements”

The government has indicated councils will have time to prepare new local plans before the presumption in favour of sustainable development contained in the draft national planning framework comes into effect.

In a statement to MPs yesterday, decentralisation minister Greg Clark said that “We will … work closely with local authorities to ensure that appropriate transitional arrangements are in place before the new framework comes into force.”

It is not yet known what form the transitional arrangements will take, but campaigners and councils have been lobbying for anything up to a two-year grace period in order for councils to get local plans in order.

Clark told Building at the start of the month that “transitional arrangements” were an important part of the National Planning Policy Framework, but the statement is the first time the delay has been confirmed in Parliament.

Clark’s statement also said that the final draft of the NPPF will seek to balance economic and social aims with environmental considerations – something environmental campaigners have accused the NPPF of failing to do. He said: “The planning system has always enshrined the principle that the economic, environmental and social dimensions of sustainable development should be considered in a balanced way—and it will continue to do so.”

His comments come in advance of a debate on planning in the House of Commons today.

The timing of the introduction of the “presumption in favour” is crucial, because under the draft proposals anything up to 95% of the country would be subject to the presumption in favour because developers would be able to argue that local plans are out of date. A delay would give councils time to update plans to ensure they are able to keep control of development in their areas.

Beverley Firth, real estate partner at law firm Mills & Reeve, said: “The delay will be some comfort to many local authorities who are lagging behind on their core strategies. However, I am aware of at least one authority which has responded to the NPPF saying that they would need four years to implement their core strategy, so perhaps the comfort won’t extend to all.

“Indeed, with planning departments stripped down to a minimum in terms of staffing, one has to wonder how they are going to cope with bringing in transitional arrangements, which will include picking up the details that the NPPF leaves out, as well as filling the gaps left when Regional Strategies are revoked next year.”

 A spokesperson for the National Trust, said: ““We welcome the government’s commitment to “enshrine in the planning system the principle that the economic, environmental and social dimensions of sustainable development should be considered in a balanced way.” To reinforce this principle of balance, we believe it is essential that the draft National Planning Policy Framework is rewritten to make it absolutely clear, and not open to the high level of interpretation which would result from the draft.”