Mark Whitehead 07 March 2018

The planning shakeup - what it means

The original National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), published in 2012, set out government planning policy for England to replace a wide range of previous statements and guidance. It was said to have reduced planning policy from more than 1,000 pages to around 50. In the same year the Taylor Report further reviewed the remaining guidance.

The NPPF dismantled the regional apparatus and introduced neighbourhood planning to create 'a framework within which local people and their accountable councils can produce their own distinctive local and neighbourhood plans which reflect the needs and priorities of their communities.’

It stressed the need for 'sustainable development' based on economic, social and environmental considerations and set out core principles for planning, including that it should take account of the diverse character of different areas, support a low-carbon economy, encourage the use of brownfield land and promote the use of public transport, walking and cycling.

Criticisms included that words like 'sustainability' were unclear, that there were inadequate resources to implement the framework and that there was a lack of guidance for local communities.

Some campaigners described the findings of the review as giving the go ahead for a 'bonfire of planning rules', creating a charter for development and putting the countryside at risk.

However, on 5 March this year prime minister Theresa May launched an overhaul of the NPPF, aiming to maximise the use of land, strengthen Green Belt protections and place a greater emphasis on converting planning permissions into built homes.

She said the cost of housing, both for ownership and rent, was reinforcing economic divisions and leading to growing social immobility, with public sector workers unable to take jobs in certain parts of the country. 'The result is a vicious circle from which most people can only escape with help from the bank of mum and dad,' she said. 'Talking to voters during last year's election campaign, it was clear that many people, particularly younger people, are angry about this . They're right to be angry.'

Pending consultation, the prime minister said the existing NPPF will be overhauled with up to 80 proposals first put forward in 2017 being implemented.

Key measures include:

  • 10% of homes on major sites should be available for affordable home ownership
  • Builders should be more open about affordable housing commitments at the planning stage
  • Before issuing future planning permission, local authorities will be able to take into account the speed with which a developer builds on a site
  • Councils will be able to consider revoking planning permission after two years if building has not begun
  • Councils will have to adopt a new nationwide standard showing housing need in their areas
  • Infrastructure will need to be considered at the pre-planning stage Ancient woodland and aged trees will get specific protection
  • Homeowners will be able to add two storeys to existing properties

Mrs May's accusation that some councils had obstructed planning decisions led to an angry response from Lord Porter, chair of the Local Government Association. He said: 'The truth is that councils are currently approving nine in 10 planning applications, which shows that the planning system is working well and is not a barrier to building.

'Nearly three-quarters of planning refusals are upheld on appeal, vindicating councils’ original decisions. It is completely wrong, therefore, to suggest the country’s failure to build the housing it desperately needs is down to councils.'

Shadow housing minister John Healey said: 'This housing crisis is made in Downing Street. It's time the Tories changed course, and backed Labour's long-term plan to build the genuinely affordable homes.'

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