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Planning Law Solicitors

National Planning Policy Framework

April 4th, 2012 by Louise Humphreys

Posted In: Planning

Much has been written about the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) since its publication on 27 March 2012 consigning as it did practically the entire collection of Planning Policy Guidance Notes (PPGs) & Planning Policy Statements (PPS) to the bin as well as assorted ministerial statements, circulars and minerals policy guidance (MPG). Of Most of the commentary has been focused on the big question "what does the NPPF mean for development?", but this can be skewed depending upon the interests of the targeted readership.

Whilst by no means definitive in a legal sense, perhaps the best source of guidance on what NPPF means can be found in the advice note given by the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) to its inspectors. After all, it is the Inspectors who will be charged with interpreting and applying NPPF policies when determining planning appeals and assessing the 'soundness' of draft local plans upon which the planning system is founded.

The PINS advice note lists the principal policy changes in the NPPF as:

  • Introduction of presumption in favour of sustainable development.
  • Removal of small scale rural office development from 'town centre first' policy.
  • For major town centre schemes where full impact will not be realised within 5 years, impacts should also be assessed for a period of up to 10 years.
  • Removal of the maximum non-residential car parking standards for major developments.
  • Removal of national brownfield target for housing development.
  • Require local planning authorities to allocate and update annually a 5 year supply of housing sites with at least 5% buffer (moved forward from later in plan period) and 20% buffer (moved forward from later in plan period) where a record of persistent under delivery.
  • Removal of national minimum site size threshold for requiring affordable housing to be delivered.
  • Increased flexibility for delivery of rural housing to reflect local needs.
  • Increased protection for community facilities.
  • Minor technical changes to the detail of Green Belt policy.
  • Provide more flexibility regarding manner in which local planning authorities meet local requirements for decentralised energy supply.
  • Encouragement for local planning authorities to map areas for commercial scale renewable and low carbon energy development opportunity, and then to apply these criteria to other applications.
  • Requirement on local planning authorities to take strategic approach in Local Plans to creation, protection, enhancement and management of networks of biodiversity and green infrastructure.
  • Recognition of designation within Local Plans of locally designated sites of importance for wildlife, geodiversity or landscape character.
  • Clarification of which wildlife sites should have same protection as European sites.
  • Removal of requirement to set criteria and select sites for peat extraction.

What NPPF also makes clear is that local planning authorities must press ahead with their core strategies (once again re-styled as local plans). It is quite frankly depressing that less than 50% of local planning authorities have such a document adopted.

Finally, the NPPF transitional arrangements may have come as a shock to some local planning authorities whose local plans were adopted prior to 2004. The 12-month transition period offered to local authorities to get their plans in order only applies to plans adopted since 2004. Any plans adopted prior to this date will with immediate effect, have only limited weight according to the degree of consistency with the NPPF.