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New National Planning Policy Framework consultation launched

8th March 2018

New National Planning Policy Framework consultation launched

On 5 March 2018 the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) issued a suite of national planning policy framework (NPPF) consultation documents setting out MHCLG’s proposed changes to the NPPF.

Higgs’ Planning and Highways expert, Dinah Patel reviews the recent proposals and their impact on the sector.

“The new policies introduce useful detail which intends to clarify the existing NPPF that has been subject to considerable litigation.

The NPPF consultation documents comprise:

  1. NPPF consultation proposals
  2. NPPF draft text for consultation
  3. planning policy guidance for viability
  4. supporting housing delivery through developer contributions.

MHCLG also issued a section 106 planning obligations and the community infrastructure Levy: research report which examines the use of developer contributions in England during the financial year 2016/17.

The ‘Right Homes for the Right Places’ consultation and Government White Paper Fixing our Broken Housing Market’ also feature in the proposed changes to the NPPF.

Presumption in favour of sustainable development

One of the main changes is to the presumption in favour of sustainable development which is given a new paragraph (11) and reads:

‘Plans and decisions should apply a presumption in favour of sustainable development.

For plan-making this means that:

a)    plans should positively seek opportunities to meet the development needs of their area, and be sufficiently flexible to adapt to rapid change:

b)    strategic plans should as a minimum, provide for objectively assessed needs for housing and other development, as well as any needs that cannot be met within neighbouring areas, unless:

                      i.        the application of policies in this Framework that protect areas or assets of particular importance provides a strong reason for restricting the overall scale, type or distribution of development in the plan area; or

                     ii.        any adverse impacts of doing so would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits, when assessed against the policies in this Framework taken as a whole.

For decision-taking this means:

c)    approving development proposals that accord with an up-to-date development plan without delay; or

d)    where there are no relevant development plan policies, or the policies which are most important for determining the application are out-of-date, granting permission unless:

                      i.        the application of policies in this Framework that protect areas or assets of particular importance provides a clear reason for refusing the development proposed; or

                     ii.        any adverse impacts of doing so would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits, when assessed against the policies in this Framework taken as a whole.

Plans should therefore positively seek opportunities to meet development needs and strategic plans should focus on objectively assessed needs for housing and other development.

For the purposes of decision taking, development should be approved speedily where the proposals accord with the latest plan and where policies are not relevant policies or out-of-date development should be approved unless the NPPF gives a clear reason not to or the impact outweighs the policies when the whole of the NPPF is applied. There is a footnote to assist and sets out the policies referred to in the NPPF specifically advising that it does not mean policies in the development plans.

Delivering Housing

Chapter 5 headed ‘Delivering a sufficient supply of homes’ links with the Government’s objective to build affordable homes. Paragraph 61 confirms that strategic housing needs assessments should be based on the local housing need.

Interestingly, paragraph 63 confirms that where affordable housing need is identified it should be on-site provision and plans should specify the affordable housing product. Off-site provision can only be provided where it can be ‘robustly justified’ and it meets the objective of creating mixed and balanced communities.

Paragraph 64 goes on to say that affordable housing should not be sought for developments that are not on major sites, other than in designated rural areas. Of course development plans do not always support this approach and if incorporated it will be interesting to see how this will be applied by decision-makers and where it isn’t how far developers will seek to challenge the decision-maker.

There is also greater clarity on the role of neighbourhood plans being required to specify a housing requirement figure and avoiding re-testing save where there has been a significant change in the circumstances that affect the requirement.

A housing delivery test is introduced under the heading ‘Maintaining supply and delivery’. This should be read alongside the draft measurement rulebook published alongside the draft NPPF.

Vitality of town centres

The sequential approach to planning applications has been amended, so that out of centre sites should be considered only if suitable town centre or edge of centre sites are unavailable or not expected to become available within a reasonable period of time. The intention is not to impact emerging town centre or edge of centre sites that are in the pipeline.

The previous expectation that proposals for out of town office developments of a certain threshold should be subject to an impact assessment has been removed and only relates to retail and leisure development outside of town.

Green Belt

Proposed amendments to the protection of the Green Belt include provisions to be applied when considering whether exceptional circumstances exist to justify changes to Green Belt boundaries. 

Conserving and enhancing the natural environment

The draft NPPF bolsters the protection for ancient woodland and other irreplaceable habitats by introducing a new policy which supports the protection of biodiversity and irreplaceable habitats over new development except where there are wholly exceptional reasons and adequate mitigation strategies.

The ‘agent for change’ proposals are set out at paragraph 180 of the draft NPPF to ensure that development proposals fully integrate with existing businesses and communities. It makes clear that existing businesses and facilities should not have unreasonable restrictions placed on them as a result of new development.

Heritage Assets

There is clarification following the case law, that decision-makers should give great weight to a heritage asset’s conservation irrespective of the level of harm.

The consultation closes on 10 May.

For further information on anything contained in this article please contact Dinah Patel on 01384 327316.

 

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