Civic Voice tells us what we need to know about the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). Civic Voice is the national charity for the civic and amenity society movement in England. They try to make places more attractive, enjoyable and distinctive and promote civic pride.
In a letter to The Times on Wednesday 14 March 2012 Civic Voice Chair Paula Ridley together with the Chair of Campaign to Protect Rural England Peter Waine, Chair of the Heritage Alliance Loyd Grossman, the Chair of the National Trust Sir Simon Jenkins, the Chair of RSPB Ian Darling FRICS, the Chair of the Wildlife Trusts Paul Wickham, said, ‘It is dispiriting that, after so much discussion, the issue still seems to be defined largely by a sterile ‘environment vs growth‘ debate. As our organisations have argued throughout the process, the two are not in conflict. Good planning is essential for ensuring sustainable economic prosperity, at the same time as it encourages urban renewal and protects the countryside.’ …
The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) is the biggest reform to the planning system in England for 50 years. Ministers wanted to replace the 1,200+ pages of planning guidance with a system that removes red tape, stimulates development and encourages economic growth. The new rules came into effect on Tuesday 27 March 2012. In line with local plans, the new framework will guide council development decisions. ‘It is the end of top down targets… it puts power into the hand of locals‘
The town and country planning system exists to regulate the development and use of land in the public interest, and gives consideration to the social, economic and environmental impacts.
The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and the Treasury argued that the old system was overloaded with documentation, while developers said the process for approving new development was too slow and held back growth.
There were concerns that England needs to boost house-building to support a growing and aging population, which is surprising considering there is currently planning permission already some 300,000 dwellings. Civic Voice believes the planning system had potential to engage people in becoming more actively involved in their community as well as managing land use change and development for the widest public good. They agree that the planning system needed sensible reform. However, Civic Voice does not accept that planning is an obstacle to economic growth. The facts don’t support the arguments. Even as a regulatory tool more than 80 percent of planning applications were granted permission and over 30 percent of planning appeals were successful. Less than 1 percent of planning applications took more than a year to be determined.
Civic Voice has highlighted the main points from the final NPPF:
- the NPPF makes it clear that the local plan is the keystone of the planning edifice;
- the default yes to sustainable development has been removed and the definition of sustainable development has been strengthened to include the Bruntland definition and refer explicitly to the five principles of the UK Sustainable Development Strategy;
- it makes explicit that the presumption in favour of development works though, not against local plans;
- a Brownfield first policy commitment has been introduced, which will insist that Town Halls actively encourage the recycling of brownfield land in urban areas before fresh planning permission can be granted on greenfield sites – the Government will allow local councils to set their own target for bringing brownfield back into use;
- the policy includes a ‘town centre first’ provision that will require councils to promote development of shopping areas in town centres ahead of new out-of-town retail parks. This is an initiative aimed at promoting town centres – a government review of high street policy driven by Mary Portas, television’s self-styled ‘queen of shops’ so it is good to see Government policies integrating;
- a clear mention that ‘well-designed buildings and places can improve the lives of people and communities‘ – the Government attaches importance to the design of the built environment and local planning authorities should have local design review arrangements;
- transitional arrangements – Local authorities with a post-2004 local plan that is broadly in line with the NPPF will be able to use those policies for 12 months. …;
- five-year land supply – Local Authorities with a good track record on allocating land for housing must earmark a five-year supply plus five percent;
- it allows councils to protect back gardens and ensures that playing fields continue to benefit from that same protection that they do currently;
- the new document recognises the intrinsic value of countryside – this has now been included in the NPPF (it had been removed from the first draft);
- designated beauty spots, such as national parks, had already been promised ‘robust protections’, as has Green Belt land;
- the Government is introducing a duty to cooperate to ensure that local authorities and public bodies cooperate with each other. The duty will be a key element of proposals for strategic working now that Regional Strategies are abolished.
The full National Planning Policy Framework can be viewed online