The UK planning system has seen a year of inexorable change. The abolition of Regional Spatial Strategies, publication of the National Planning Policy Framework and the Localism Act, and announcement of Enterprise Zones, have changed the planning landscape beyond recognition. And we can expect more changes through 2012.
Much heralded National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) published
The main event of 2011 was the publication of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) for consultation in July. Much heralded (and leaked) this was designed to distil thousands of pages of policy and advice into a simple to read and understand document of some 30 pages. Suddenly planning was big news, featuring as the lead item in national news broadcasts and igniting a debate in the press which pitched the likes of the Daily Telegraph, the National Trust, CPRE and the WI against the development industry, the CBI and others.
Many questions around the implications of the framework
Opponents felt that the document was too development friendly, with a default position of ‘yes’ to planning applications and a presumption in favour of sustainable development, but no definition. Many feared it would lead to the widespread development of Green Belt land and significant erosion of the countryside, while others saw it as just what was needed to help to kick start the economy through construction. Whatever the answer, it once again cast the planning system into doubt and led to further confusion, with the Government standing firm in the face of significant opposition and instructing planning inspectors to acknowledge the draft when considering appeals. Some minor changes were suggested in the latter part of 2011, but it is likely that the guidance will progress in a largely unaltered state throughout 2012.
Localism Bill seeks to empower local people
The other main event of the year was the publication of the Localism Bill. Many provisions in the Act will not come into force until later this year, although they enforce the basis of the Localism agenda promised by the Coalition, with the potential for local people to have much more of a say in the planning of their areas. What this will mean in practice remains to be seen.
Significant growth predicted for Cambridgeshire developments
Locally; Cambridge, South Cambridgeshire and Peterborough will see significant growth over the next 15 years as their respective Local Development Frameworks commit the these local authorities to provide significant levels of new housing and employment land through various urban extensions and new settlements. A recent announcement in late February 2012 by the HCA confirms that the first phase of the master plan for Northstowe, located to the north west of Cambridge (adjacent to Longstanton and Oakington), is underway.
A planning application has now been submitted to South Cambridgeshire District Council proposing 1,500 new dwellings and associated facilities. This will be the first phase of development which will see up to 10,000 new dwellings being built as well as a new town centre, 20 hectares of new employment land and associated community facilities being built over the next 20 years. This development will see Northstowe becoming the biggest New Town since Milton Keynes.
Huntingdon Enterprise Zone to creat new jobs
Furthermore in August 2011, the Government announced that Alconbury Airfield, near Huntingdon would be one of the second wave of Enterprise Zones. The zone would cover 150 hectares of the 575 hectare site and is expected to create 8,000 new jobs over the next 25 years. This designation will bring forward a number of benefits including; 100% business rate discount worth up to £275,000 over five years for every business (with all business rates growth will be retained locally in the Local Enterprise Partnership area for a period of at least 25 years); simplified planning approaches in the zone (effectively removing the need for planning permission for certain types of development); and government support to ensure superfast broadband is rolled out.