National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) consultation: our hopes and fears

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The Department for Levelling Up, Housing, and Communities (DLUHC) issued a consultation on 22 December seeking views on how to develop national planning policy in England, to support the government’s wider objectives. The proposals include amendments to the NPPF, the preparation of National Development Management Plans (NDMPs), policy to support levelling up, and how national planning policy is currently accessed by users. There is a separate document with the proposed amended text for the NPPF.

The society welcomes the opportunity to influence how the government can deliver its levelling-up plans. We are considering the detail and shall respond in due course.

The society’s priorities for the government during this process include:

  • improving the process to designate land as a local green space (LGS) and strengthening the protection to ensure that local open spaces, so vital during the lockdown restrictions, are not vulnerable to development;
  • developing pro-active measures to equalise open space provision for all;
  • delivering a more accessible neighbourhood planning regime;
  • ensuring that the use of permitted development rights, and permission in principle, will not result in more development affecting public rights of way;
  • providing protection for the environment, important open spaces, and public rights of way when onshore wind-power schemes are proposed on sites that have not been designated in the local plan.

It is disappointing that a full review of the NPPF has been postponed. Users of the planning system require certainty not constant change. Given the increasing number of government proposals in relation to planning, including in the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, and its intention of implementing the changes this spring, we are concerned that the responses to this consultation will not be adequately evaluated.

The consultation extols the policy objectives of building beautiful and refusing ugliness, securing infrastructure to support development, more democratic engagement with communities on local plans, better environmental outcomes, empowering local communities to shape their neighbourhood, and delivering more homes on the right places. These are laudable aims but it remains unclear how they will be achieved. And we are deeply concerned that, contrary to these intentions, the NDMPs will lead to centralisation of powers, for they will enable the secretary of state to change planning policy, with little restraint.

There is much detail on the methods of assessing housing need, including allowing local planning authorities to include historic oversupply in their five-year housing land supply calculations. Measures to tackle slow implementation of permissions, onshore wind-development on sites that have not been designated in the local plan, and climate crisis, and to consider environmental protection, are included.

There are to be separate and welcome consultations on NDMPs and permitted development rights.

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