Planning Minister Greg Clark has reminded his Parliamentary colleagues that the final NPPF will be published ‘by the end of March’. If it happens after the House of Commons recess – starting on 9 February – it’s anyone’s guess whether the Government will go for a date in late February or early March, or take it right to the end of the month. With the Budget falling on 21 March, it’s likely to be a busy month all round.
While we wait for the final document, here’s a steer on exactly what changes we’ll be looking for in the final document. These are the main points from our consultation response we submitted in October:
- ‘Presumption in favour of sustainable development’: We’re looking for a genuine steer to put sustainable development (see next point) at the heart of all local plans. We want to see sensible transition arrangements put in place for local authorities, the removal of the ‘default yes’ to planning applications where no plan is in place, and removal of the phrase ‘significantly and demonstrably’ as it is unqualified and impractical.
- Definition of sustainable development: There must be a clear, robust and practical definition written into the NPPF and reflected throughout, and it must include environmental limits.
- ‘Duty to cooperate’: This should be made stronger, with clear guidance on how this will operate
- Viability: There should be no suggestion in the NPPF that unsustainable development can proceed if measures to make it sustainable are deemed to make it unviable. Protection of natural assets should not be waived on this basis either.
- Brownfield first: There should be priority given to allocating previously developed land, where it’s located appropriately, and has little biodiversity value.
- Town centre first: This should be made explicit, and should include office buildings
- Housing: The instruction to provide a 20% uplift on the five year housing land supply should be removed, and windfall sites should be added.
- Affordable housing: We want to see a stronger emphasis on the importance of affordable housing as part of the plan-making and decision-making process.
- Individual subject sections within NPPF need to show more balance: They are wide open to interpretation, and full of get-out clauses such as ‘where reasonable’ or ‘where practical’ – this just isn’t good enough.
We’ve compared this list with the CLG Select Committee report, published back in December, and we’re reassured that there’s a very close resemblance.
Mr Clark’s commitment to take the Select Committee report seriously, gives us room to hope for a final NPPF which is fit for purpose, although only time will tell…
Blog by Claire Graves, National Trust Senior Press Officer