Little comfort from updated planning policies

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The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has published an updated version of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

There are six main changes but we are disappointed that the revisions do not reflect the submission we made on the consultation.

Says our case officer Nicola Hodgson: ‘We remain concerned that the government’s proposals taken together with those in the Planning White Paper, the extension of Permitted Development Rights, and the proposals to change the Article 4 directions, will undermine the protection for green spaces, public paths and our unique and varied landscapes.’

The society’s main concerns about the proposals for amendments to NPPF are as follows

  • An opportunity has been missed to improve the process to designate land as a local green space (LGS) and to strengthen the protection leaving the local open spaces, so vital during the lockdown restrictions, vulnerable to development.
  • There are no pro-active measures to level up open space provision for all.
  • The uncertainty surrounding the future of Neighbourhood Planning puts at risk one of the two mechanisms to enable local communities to submit land for protection as LGS.
  • The proposals for much greater use of permitted development rights, zoning and permission in principle will result in much more development affecting public rights of way, but without any prior administrative consideration of the rights of way themselves.
  • It is disappointing that this is only a cursory look at the NPPF rather than a full review.  Given the increasing number of government proposals in relation to planning we are concerned that the responses to this consultation may not be adequately evaluated.

    Kingsmead Field, Canterbury, Kent, a registered as a village green in 2019

The creation of the Office of Place and prioritisation of design codes, alongside the NPPF, is welcome, but the planning white paper proposals remain a serious concern and will undermine any progress which is made through the new design codes.

Further changes

Changes to the NPPF include strengthened requirements on design quality and use of trees in new developments. There are revised policies on plan making for local authorities, retaining rather than removing statutes, and wording for limited opting out of Permitted Development Rights ( Article 4 directions, para 53).

There are changes to the overarching social objective of planning system (para 8b) to include fostering of ‘well designed, beautiful and safe places’. The previous version merely required ‘a well-designed and safe built environment’.

There is a new paragraph on ‘public service infrastructure’ ( para 96) but all other changes are the same as those proposed in the consultation in January.

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