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News - 27/03/2012

New National Planning Policy Framework could kick-start development

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The Government’s new National Planning Policy Framework could kick-start development and act as a catalyst for stalled developments to restart.

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) comes into immediate effect and is intended to provide more certainty in the planning system.

While much of it is not new it may finally encourage new development.

Encouraging economic growth

Publication of the document has been heralded for some time, with a draft published last July which provoked criticism in some quarters.

Stephen Hemming, Director in our Planning and Development team said: “The document stays true to many of the key themes set out in the draft, reducing more than 1,300 pages of planning policy into just 50 to provide concise guidance. The key message is the emergence of a more robustly defined ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’ with the principle aim of proactively encouraging economic growth.

Document includes safeguards for rural landscape

“At the same time the document seeks to appease the pro-countryside groups who were so alarmed with the provisions of the draft document. It stresses the importance of retaining significantly sensitive rural landscapes as well as continuing the emphasis on building on ‘land of lesser environmental value’ omitting references to ‘brownfield land’.”

Stephen added: “Alongside this, the Government has put in place further safeguards to sustain the vitality of town centres by continuing to emphasis a ‘town centre first’ approach for retail development, as well as re-introducing the requirement for offices to be located in town and city centres.”

The published NPPF still requires local authorities to have an up to date development plan, failing which the provisions of the NPPF will come into force immediately. Authorities with a post 2004 plan which is “broadly in line” with the NPPF will have 12 months grace. The requirement to have a five year housing land supply is still in place. Those authorities who have historically achieved this should provide an additional five per cent, while others should provide an additional 20 per cent.

Reducing red tape to promote development

Stephen concludes: “The new concise nature of this document is intended to help plans to be approved quickly without being bogged down in red tape and to provide local communities with much needed homes and employment opportunities. 

“While the document is intended to mark a fresh approach to planning, much of the content was included in previous policy documents, albeit in a wordier format. The focus on the planning system is to be welcomed with the intention that this document can help to promote development across the country. It is hoped that the brevity of the document does not itself cause issues with differing interpretations of what has not been expressly defined”.

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