The Government has today published the new National Planning Policy Framework and here is a link. This comes into effect immediately and is part of the Government’s drive to simplify planning in the UK to promote growth. Government sources today called it ‘unashamedly pro-growth.’ Last summer’s draft of the NPPF got a lot of criticism particularly from environmental, heritage and sustainability groups and it has been revised significantly.

Those involved in property development might like to note the following key points –

  • The NPPF is just a policy document. It should not be forgotten that the overriding statutory  requirement is still that all planning decisions should be made in accordance with the development plan, unless material considerations (of which the NPPF is but one) dictate otherwise. So the starting point should still be the relevant local development plan.
  • The NPPF states that the purpose of planning is to achieve sustainable development. This is a definition that has changed significantly since the first draft of the NPPF and has three limbs – economic, social and environmental. The document refers to the UN’s definition of sustainable development meeting the needs of today without compromising the ability of future generations to do so.
  • Top down planning is a thing of the past, and where an application is submitted for a development that accords with an up to date local development plan then consent should be granted. We have seen recent statistics saying that over half the local authorities do not have their up to date plans in place but, no doubt, now the NPPF has been published it will be easier for them to progress their local plans.
  • Green belt land remains protected and the protection overrides the general presumption in favour of sustainable development.
  • Similar protection is stated for heritage assets.
  • The re-use of brownfield land is encouraged.
  • Town centres are to be recognised as being at the heart of the community and there will be a sequential test for planning applications for developments for ‘main town centre uses.’
  • When local planning authorities assess applications for retail, leisure and office development outside town centres which are not in accordance with up to date local plans they will require impact assessments to understand the impact on existing, committed and planned public and private investment in the area and on the town centre’s vitality and viability. Smaller developments will escape this requirement.

It remains to be seen if the bodies which objected last summer still find this version of the NPPF quite as controversial as they did. Even more importantly, it remains to be seen if it will improve the process for developers in obtaining planning permission.