Michael Gove signals new NPPF rules won’t be introduced until autumn

The government is to delay its proposed revisions to national planning policy until at least the autumn, housing secretary Michael Gove has said.

Gove is reported to have made the admission earlier this week at a local government conference, with the department later stating that the revisions will not be published until after the much-delayed Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill (LURB) becomes law.

The government has previously said that the proposed shake-up of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), which will act to water down housing targets and provide extra protections for green belt land, would be brought in in the spring.

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Housing secretary Michael Gove is set to delay the proposals until autumn

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) has now confirmed the delay to Building’s sister title Housing Today, with the revisions now due after summer recess.

The department added that the timing of the response would depend upon parliamentary time, with the consultation response understood to be being held back until at least after the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill gets enacted.

The Bill, which itself contains numerous planning reforms, is currently in report stage in the Lords, with several sessions booked to deal with amendments through July. However, it is already clear that the Bill will not pass into law before summer recess, and with a Lords third reading and “ping pong” stages still to go prior to royal assent, industry sources believe it is also very unlikely to be made law prior to the party conference season at the end of September. 

That would push publication of the NPPF changes into October or November.

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The delay will come as a blow to developers, who blame the consultation on policy changes for a deepening of the current planning hiatus, with numerous local authorities putting local plan development on hold in response, given the possibility of reducing housing numbers under a revised NPPF.

Phill Bamford, policy director at the Land Promoters and Developers Federation, said it was “extremely disappointing” to hear the secretary of state announce that the NPPF changes would not be published in their final form until the LURB gains Royal Assent later this year.

He said: “This will inevitably lead to more uncertainty for the planning system which is already suffering from delays to local plan preparation, falling numbers of planning applications and planning permissions, and decreasing starts on site.

“The delay is only likely to further exacerbate these problems which will result in significantly fewer new homes being completed. The government needs to act now to find ways in which the supply of new homes and employment space can be boosted in the absence of certainty with regards to the revised NPPF.

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“They should strongly encourage Local Planning Authorities to continue with local plan preparation and make positive decisions on planning applications which deliver much needed economic growth and new homes.”

The government is known to have received around 26,000 responses to the NPPF consultation, issued just before Christmas, with many in the development sector violently opposed. The reforms were proposed following a deal between Gove and anti-development backbenchers opposed to housing targets.

A DLUHC spokesperson said: “Our target of delivering 300,000 new homes per year remains and we are investing £11.5 billion to build the affordable, quality homes this country needs.

“Once we have considered all the responses to the consultation we will publish a response in due course.”