Councils to be told to approve permissions unless “significant and demonstrable” disbenefits

Local councils will have to prove the adverse impacts of a development “significantly and demonstrably” outweigh the benefits in order to turn down planning applications, under the national planning framework published today for consultation.

A new presumption in favour of sustainable development is, as expected, at the heart of the document, known as the National Planning Policy Framework, which will guide the way councils can make development decisions from April next year.

The document also confirms leaks that councils will have to identify the equivalent of an extra years supply of development land for housing in order to be meeting their obligations. Currently councils have to identify five years of housing land.

The document says that applications that accord with statutory plans should be approved “without delay”, and that permission should be granted where the plan is “absent, silent, indeterminate or where relevant policies are out of date.”

The only exceptions are where “adverse impacts of allowing development would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits, when assessed against the policies in this Framework.”

The government says the framework will reduce 1,000 pages of current planning guidance to just 52.

Decentralisation minister Greg Clark said: “Clarity in planning has become lost in translation. National planning policy and central government guidance has become so bloated that it now contains more words than the complete works of Shakespeare, making it impenetrable to ordinary people.

“We need a simpler, swifter system that is easier to understand and where you don’t need to pay for a lawyer to navigate your way around.”

The framework has been welcomed by developers, with Sir Stuart Lipton, chair of the Major Developers Group saying he was “delighted” by the proposals.

The full document is available to download here.