Government sets out changes to planning rules

Draft revisions to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) were launched by Theresa May and housing secretary Sajid Javid in speeches at a Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) event in London today. The proposed changes are the first since the original version was issued six years ago and purport to overhaul national policy.

The majority of the amendments reflect previously announced proposals, with up to 80 measures now being implemented within the draft NPPF.

Headline changes include revisions to the policy tests on housing supply with the introduction of a standard methodology for calculating housing need and an ability to ‘fix’ this number on an annual basis. In addition, a housing delivery test based on numbers of homes built, rather than a focus on the number of permissions issued, will be introduced in an effort to ensure that both councils and developers are accountable for delivery.

The Government has stated the proposals will see councils given "more freedom" to make the most of existing brownfield land by maximising the density of development, including powers to refuse applications where the council feels the use of a site has not been optimised.

However, the commitment to protect green belt remains as strong as ever and the proposals include an increase the protection given to ancient woodland. In keeping with the recently announced Defra 25-year Environment Plan, the revised NPPF will seek to ensure all developments result in a net gain to the environment where possible.

In her speech, Mrs May said the Government was committed to “streamlining the planning process, so that much-needed homes aren’t held up by endless appeals and bureaucracy”. But she added that the NPPF was only part of the solution as “we must not lose sight of the fact that planning for the homes we need is not the same as building the homes we need. After all, families can’t live in a planning permission”.

Alongside revisions to the NPPF, draft Planning Practice Guidance (PPG) on viability assessments has been published. Further draft changes to the PPG covering the other changes to the NPPF are expected to be published in the coming days. A further consultation on reform to developer contributions has also been published.

Consultation on the revised draft NPPF runs until 10 May. The Government’s intention is to adopt a final version "before the summer", according to the consultation document.

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For further commentary on today’s speech by the Prime Minister, or to discuss any planning-related issue, please contact Fred Quartermain or another member of Thrings’ Planning team.

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