The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) was published and came into force on 27 March 2012, following a consultation period on the draft produced in July 2011. The NPPF replaces over 1000 pages of planning policy guidance and circulars in England and sets out the government’s planning policies and their application. The NPPF is underpinned by a presumption in favour of sustainable development.
The NPPF is required to be taken into account in the preparation of local and neighbourhood plans and is a material consideration in the determination of planning applications. Transitional provisions have been put in place to allow decision makers to give full weight to relevant policies in development plan policies adopted since 2004 even if there is limited conflict with the NPPF. In other cases and from 27 March 2013, weight should be given to policies in existing plans according to the degree of consistency with the NPPF.
In summary, the NPPF contains policies regarding the following areas:
- Economy: significant weight should be attributed to the need to support economic growth and land allocation should be kept under review.
- Town centres: competitive town centre environments should be promoted and policies should account for their management and growth. The sequential approach (town centres should be developed prior to out-of-town sites) is retained except for small scale rural offices or development.
- Rural economy: planning policies should support economic growth in rural areas and in particular businesses, diversification, tourism, leisure and local facilities.
- Transport: sustainable transport should be encouraged and greenhouse gas emissions and congestion reduced.
- Communications infrastructure: the expansion of electronic communications networks should be supported, including telecommunications and high speed broadband.
- Housing: local planning authorities should identify and annually review a supply of sites to provide five years’ worth of housing against their targets with a buffer of 5% to ensure choice and competition or 20% where there has been under delivery.
- Design: detailed policies regarding design and quality of a scheme should be developed and consideration given to design codes and innovative designs but not to architectural styles.
- Community involvement: authorities should involve communities in the development of local plans, neighbourhood planning and other decisions.
- Green belt: inappropriate development which is considered harmful to the green belt should not be approved unless there are very special circumstances.
- Climate change: strategies should be formed to address climate change and reference made to flood risk, coastal change and water supply.
- Natural and historic environment: steps should be taken to conserve and enhance both the natural and historic environment.
The NPPF does not contain any detailed guidance on waste, which will form part of the National Waste Management Plan, or nationally significant infrastructure projects.
There remains much speculation about whether the NPPF provides sufficient clarity to assist in the determination of planning applications or whether the streamlined policies will lead to an increase in appeals and legal challenges due to the uncertainty regarding the detail of the same. Established case law relating to the abolished policies may also be referred to as informal guidance.
For advice or more information on the NPPF or other recent changes to the planning regime, please contact Alex Madden