Today the Government finally published its National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), designed to speed up the planning process and facilitate growth.

  • As expected, the much-discussed presumption in favour of sustainable development – the so-called “golden thread running through both plan-making and decision-taking” – has been retained.
  • Greg Clark MP, Planning Minister, while speaking in the House of Commons, bemoaned that to date, too much development has been “mediocre, insensitive and detracted from the character of the local environment.”

Recognising the planning system has ground to a halt, the urgent need to stimulate growth and enshrining the local plan as the keystone of the planning system, the following points were highlighted:

  • There are three fundamental objectives within the NPPF: to put power in the hands of local communities, to create a better chance for growth to create jobs and homes, and to ensure valuable places are passed on to future generations in better condition.
  • Reinforcement of the presumption in favour of sustainable development, unless to approve it “would be against our collective interest.” Clark said localism is the essence of the Government’s plans, reflecting the increased emphasis on community engagement enshrined within the Localism Act.
  • Guarantees of robust protections for the natural and historic environment, and also the requirement for “net improvements” to address existing neglect.
  • Raising of the bar on design standards, which, according to Clark, will create the most rigorous ever seen in the English planning system.
  • Moving forward, the Government has allowed 12 months from today for existing plans to be adjusted to be in complete conformity with the new NPPF, adding that weight should be given to emerging plans. Clark also said that he will ensure Parliament supervises the implementation of the policies, beginning with a debate soon after the House returns.

Interestingly, local planning authorities with a record of persistent under-delivery of housing should now also increase their five year supply buffer to a full 20 per cent, rather than 5 per cent.

Of the 35 recommendations on changes to planning reforms made by the CLG Select Committee, 30 have been accepted.

Although it is hoped these safeguards will satisfactorily address previous significant concerns from many over the presumption in favour of sustainable development (and the reception of the final document has been mostly positive), while providing developers with the flexibility to help the Government deliver its growth agenda, debate will continue.