Government announces revised National Planning Policy Framework

The majority of local authorities will get no time to update their local plans, leaving planning decisions subject to the presumption of sustainable development from today, the government has confirmed.

Publishing the long-awaited National Planning Policy Framework today, planning minister Greg Clark said that those councils who have failed to get a local plan in place since the system was reformed in 2004 would be subject to the NPPF, which comes into effect now.

Clark said that after discussions with the Local Government Association, which he said supported the NPPF, he had agreed to give weight to emerging local plans in the planning system. However, those plans will not have a specific transitional period to get up-to-date before the presumption kicks in.

More than half of councils do not have a local plan in place under the 2004 Planning Act. Those local authorities with post-2004 plans will get 12 months to get their plans up-to-date.

The document also encourages councils to put in place policies to encourage the bringing back into use of brownfield land, but there will be no central target for brownfield use.

However, Clark also made it clear that the government has listened to critics, by amending the definition of sustainable development, and by making explicit references to protecting the “intrinsic value and beauty of the countryside.”

The NPPF now includes both the original high-level “Brundtland” definition of sustainable development, and adds the five principles of sustainability from New Labour’s 2005 Sustainable Development Strategy.

Clark said: “Our reforms to planning policy have 3 fundamental objectives: to put unprecedented power in the hands of communities to shape the places in which they live; to better support growth to give the next generation the chance that our generation has had to have a decent home; and to ensure that the places we cherish - our countryside, towns and cities - are bequeathed to the next generation in a better condition than they are now.”

Clark said he had accepted 30 out of 35 recommendations of a highly critical report on the draft NPPF by the Communities Department select committee, and that the NPPF now included the “most exacting requirement on design the planning system has ever contained.”

Launching the strategy in the House of Commons, Clark faced repeated calls to publish what contact ministers had with developers during the course of drawing up the NPPF.

Housebuilders welcomed the publication of the strategy. Housebuilder Cala Group, which has been fighting a series of long-running legal battles with the government over the reforms to the planning system, welcomed the publication of the NPPF as a “shot in the arm” for the housebuilding industry.

Stewart Baseley, executive chairman of Home Builders’ Federation, said: “The proposals are sensible and will balance a community’s housing needs against environmental and other considerations.  We now need to see the policies implemented quickly so we can start to tackle the country’s acute housing crisis.”

Liz Peace, chief executive of the British Property Federation, said: “What’s needed now is clarity over how the NPPF is going to be implemented. Urgent questions remain over how local authorities should determine how many homes and jobs they need, and what the guidance that underpins the NPPF should be.

“And those local authorities that have failed in the last eight years to draw up an up to date Local Plan must now get on and create one. Hopefully the transitional arrangements announced today will be the spur they need.”

More to follow…