National Planning Policy Framework: Select Committee recommends significant changes
It appears that the Government has more work to do in revising its forthcoming National Planning Policy Framework, following a report issued today by a House of Commons Select Committee. The Committee’s report makes a number of recommendations which, if implemented, would result in significant changes to the NPPF. dha planning has reviewed the report to identify some of the key changes which are likely to be of most interest to our clients:
Offices and the ‘Town Centre First’ policy
The report recommends that offices should, as currently, require a sequential test to ensure that they are located in town centres first (although it suggests that some exceptions may be made where offices contribute to rural sustainability). It adds that arts, culture and tourism uses should also be located in the town centre first. It also recommends that any development failing the sequential test should be deemed unsustainable.
The report adds that in exceptional circumstances, communities should be allowed to adopt “absolute protection” of a town centre from out-of-town retail development.
Brownfield housing sites
The report recommends that the NPPF should contain a statement of the principle that previously developed land should be developed first wherever possible.
The report recommends that local authorities which adopt a local target for the use of brownfield land should be able to prioritise it when identifying their six year housing supply.
Need for greater clarity
The report makes a number of recommendations requiring better clarity, precision and tighter definitions. This includes the need for a better definition of “sustainable development” for which the following is suggested:
“Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of existing communities and future generations to meet their own needs. It is central to the economic, environmental and social success of the country both that these three aspects of development are addressed positively and equally and that planning both serves to protect and to enhance and add value to the environment. This is the core principle underpinning planning.
Policies in plans and decisions on development should be assessed against the principles that the nation and areas within it should live within their environmental limits; should achieve a sustainable economy and should seek to ensure a strong, healthy and just society.”
Redevelopment of playing fields
The report recommends the reinstatement of the current planning policy requirement for equivalent or improved replacement sports facilities to be provided if they are lost to development.
Presumption in favour of sustainable development and Local Plans
The report criticises the failure of the NPPF to give clear weight to the supremacy of the Local Plan. It recommends that the presumption in favour of sustainable development should be redefined as “a presumption in favour of sustainable development consistent with the Local Plan.”
The report also notes that the relationship between the NPPF, Local Plans and Neighbourhood Plans should be clearly set out in the NPPF, including advice to authorities on what to do when priorities conflict.
Refusal on transport grounds
The transport section of the NPPF was singled out for criticism, in particular for phrases such as “development should not be prevented or refused on transport grounds unless the residual impacts of development are severe”. The report recommends that local authorities should be allowed to refuse permission or require changes on transport grounds where the proposal runs counter to local priorities or wishes, not just when an impact would be severe.
Further consultation required?
The report recommends that further consultation should take place in relation to any revisions made to the NPPF. The Government has previously suggested that it did not intend to consult further. In our view, a need for further consultation may put at risk the Government’s intention to bring the NPPF into effect by April 2012.
The Department for Communities and Local Government will now consider the report and decide how the NPPF should be amended. We will let you know when further details are announced. In the meantime, if you would like to discuss how these recommendations may affect you, please contact Jonathan Buckwell at dha planning on 01622 776226.
In the meantime, everyone at dha planning would like to wish you a Merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous New Year.