We are pleased with the direction of travel on several of our key priorities, including the recognition of the value of undesignated countryside, the definition of sustainable development and the explicit acknowledgement that use of brownfield land is a core planning objective. Ultimately, however, the proof of the new policy framework will be how it works in practice. We and our supporters up and down the countryside will work with the Government, local authorities and communities to try to secure the best results for what Planning Minister Greg Clark rightly referred to today as ‘our matchless countryside’.Our initial statement is available here: http://bit.ly/GU1Usb
. Looking at the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) in more detail, CPRE has broken applied a ‘traffic light’ assessment to the key issues – Green (improved/good), Amber (unchanged/caution) and Red (poor/area for concern):KEY ISSUESGreen: The undesignated (ordinary) countryside
The draft NPPF made no reference to the intrinsic value of the more than 55% of English countryside not in a National Park, Green Belt, Site of Special Scientific Interest or other designated site, but nonetheless of huge value to millions of people who live in, visit and enjoy it. So we are delighted that Ministers have heeded our campaigning, and included as one of the core planning principles recognition of ‘the intrinsic character and beauty of the countryside’ which applies whether that countryside is specifically designated or not. This will not mean no development in the countryside, but it will help ensure that building on green fields is not an option of first resort.Amber: Brownfield
We commend the Government for acknowledging explicitly that using previously developed (brownfield) land should be a core planning objective. Making sure that land is used effectively is essential if local authorities and developers are going to deliver genuinely sustainable development.
The wording in the NPPF falls short of the existing guidance, however, in that it does not require brownfield sites to always be developed before greenfield ones. We will therefore be monitoring very closely how this policy is put into place on the ground to ensure that greenfield is not being developed when alternative brownfield options are available.
Amber: Sustainable Development
The draft NPPF made no reference to the existing (2005) UK Sustainable Development Strategy or to the five guiding principles of that document. The final version rectifies this by including a box summarising the 2005 Strategy, and is stronger on achieving the environmental and social aspects of sustainable development at the same time as economic growth. There is a continued lack of clarity, however, as to what sustainable development actually means in practice, and no suggestion that environmental limits in the UK (as opposed to the global) context should be identified or respected.
The presumption in favour of sustainable development has been helpfully qualified, however, in comparison to the draft. There is no reference to a default ‘yes’ to development and applications should only be approved where they are either clearly in line with Local Plans or are demonstrably sustainable. It is also made clear that the presumption does not override policies protecting the Green Belt or other important areas of landscape.
Red: Economic Emphasis
While much of the alarming language in the draft, such as the ‘default yes’ to development, has been removed, the final NPPF contains some worrying wording on economic development. Paragraph 19 refers to the need for ‘significant weight’ to be placed on the need to support ‘economic growth’ and suggests that planning is an ‘impediment’ to such growth. Our research shows there is little evidence to support such a contention and that planning brings huge, long term benefits to the economy. Local planning authorities need to be able to refuse proposals for economic development in the wrong places and to steer it to appropriate locations.
Green: Light pollution and tranquillity
CPRE welcomes the inclusion of policies to enable local authorities to combat light pollution, by encouraging good design, planning policies and decisions to control lighting. We hope that more local authorities will now seek to limit the impact from artificial light on local amenity, intrinsically dark landscapes and the natural environment. CPRE also welcomes the first reference in national policy to the need to identify and protect areas of tranquillity for their value for recreation. We will work to ensure effective implementation of this policy to protect and enhance areas of tranquillity for their contribution to health and quality of life.
Green: Plan-led system
We warmly welcome the NPPF’s clear reiteration of the law that decisions on development must be taken in line with locally agreed policies unless other relevant issues indicate otherwise. We are pleased that where neighbourhood plans are drawn up in line with local policies, development will have to conform to the policies in those plans.
We welcome the Government’s positive response to calls to allow local authorities time to get their local plans up to date before the presumption in favour of sustainable development kicks in. It will nonetheless be a significant challenge for many resource-strapped authorities to get their plans right within the 12 month deadline.
Government has continued with its misguided approach to requiring the planning system to make available a 5 year supply of “deliverable” housing land and adding additional “buffer” requirements (5 or 20 % now judged on house building performance of planning authorities). The Government needs to recognise that planning can’t actually deliver hew housing, only make sites available.
This overall approach to land supply is not new, but the additional buffer requirement is. It could significantly increase pressure to develop easy, lower cost, greenfield and rural housing sites instead of, or in addition to, planned developments and brownfield regeneration.
Notes to Editors
 Department of Communities and Local Government, National Planning Policy Framework, 27 March 2012 http://www.communities.gov.uk/publications/planningandbuilding/nppf
RSPB Comment: Victory for wildlife after Government listens on planning reform
27 March 2012
The Government has listened to public concerns over planning reforms and has announced plans which will allow for growth while protecting wildlife.
The RSPB has welcomed the unveiling of new planning guidance today which addresses the concerns raised by the public and environmental groups.
The new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) contains a definition of sustainable development which will ensure local authorities can plan for vital homes, jobs and transport links without causing damage to our wildlife and countryside.
The RSPB’s concerns that protection for Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) was set to be weakened in the original draft of the NPPF appear to have been allayed. Although full scrutiny of the wording in the document is needed, early indications are that the new rules will protect SSSIs – meaning a bright future for the network of thousands of vital wildlife sites across England.
Martin Harper, RSPB Conservation Director, said: “Today’s news is a victory for wildlife, a victory for people and a victory for a sustainable economy.
“While we and many others raised fears over the direction the original draft of the NPPF was taking us, it is clear ministers have listened to our concerns and taken them on board.
Meeting the needs of people, business and nature
“We have always supported the idea of simplifying the planning system to make it less cumbersome and bureaucratic – but this must not happen at the expense of our environment. A healthy environment is essential for a healthy economy and the planning system is there to ensure the needs of people, business and nature are all met.
“This new planning system will help the Government deliver on its promises to promote growth, halt the loss of biodiversity and enhance our natural environment.
“This issue has rightly faced high profile scrutiny and has been the subject of heated debate. It’s not the first time this Coalition Government has faced a potential public backlash over an environmental issue. From the controversy over the sale of public forestry to reviews of environmental protection such as the Habitats Regulations, the public have made their voices heard loud and clear.
“Let’s hope that after all these bruising debates ministers now have a better understanding of just how important the environment is to the people of this country.
“It is now vital that local authorities across England have up to date local plans in place to ensure that the reforms unveiled today work effectively on the ground protecting the environment whilst allowing responsible development to go ahead.”
Planning policy: WWF’s first response
27 March 2012
The government’s new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) was launched today. We’ll give a more detailed reaction once we’ve scrutinised the full NPPF statement, but here’s the initial comments from our senior planning advisor Emmalene Gottwald.
“Today’s statement from the coalition government is disappointing – and a lost opportunity.
Its pursuit of growth fails to account for the very real value that the UK’s countryside and natural capital provides.
There are some improvements on the original draft NPPF: it’s good to see local authorities getting longer to prepare for these changes; to see a definition of sustainable development that includes the principles from the 2005 SD Strategy; and to see the removal of the ‘default yes’ clause.
Ultimately though, there’s still no strong, clear guidance to local authorities on how they can use the sustainable development policy in the NPPF and apply it to their circumstances.
What was needed was a better policy framework to make sustainable development a day-to-day exercise and a practical reality. Instead, what we have reinforces the status quo – the same old problems will again rise to the surface.
It will take a year or so, when applications under the new framework start to become reality, before we can truly judge the full impact of these changes. But our fear is that this system is simply not robust enough to protect our rural and open spaces from irreparable and costly damage.”
Government has listened to public concerns on planning
Overall, we believe the planning framework has a much better tone and balance. The most significant changes for us are:
- Confirmation of the role of local plans as the fundamental building block of the planning system;
- A clearer definition of what the Government means by sustainable development;
- References to the importance of the brownfield first approach to promoting development on previously developed land before building on green field sites;
- Better balance in the language of the document, in particular dropping phrases like the default ‘yes’ to development where there is no local plan;
- Reference to the ‘intrinsic character and beauty of the countryside’;
- Details of a transition phase for the next 12 months, to get local plans up to date with the new framework.
More detail at http://ntplanning.wordpress.com/2012/03/27/government-has-listened-to-public-concerns-on-planning/?campid=PLAN11
Planning reform revisions ease conservationists’ fears for countryside
Slimmed-down national planning policy framework met with far more support than last year’s draft version
Juliette Jowit, political correspondent
Planning reforms: countryside campaigners claim victory over planning reforms
Countryside campaigners have won concessions from the Government over planning reforms that threatened to favour development on Greenfield land.
Planning Minister Greg Clark announced a revised national framework today eight months after the original draft had angered conservationists.
Critics of the original National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) said the Government had given developers a “licence to build” in a move aimed at encouraging growth.
The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) and the National Trust were among those to join the Daily Telegraph in its Hands off Our Land campaign in response to changes to the planning system.
But announcing the framework, which came into effect today, Mr Clark promised to protect the Green Belt as well as Greenfield land while encouraging councils to bring brownfield sites back into use first.
Under today’s policy, planners must recognise the “intrinsic character and beauty” of the countryside and not just offer protection to Green Belt land and special areas of beauty or note.
The change was demanded by 45 Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs, who wrote to the Prime Minister over fears that a “presumption in favour of sustainable development” would mean concerns for the countryside would be sidelined.
The letter, organised by Zac Goldsmith MP and leaked to The Daily Telegraph, called for changes to recognise “the intrinsic value of the ordinary, undesignated countryside which is loved so much by the local communities we represent”.
Announcing the NPPF in the House of Commons, Mr Clark said the Government had accepted 30 of the 35 recommendations made by the Communities and Local Government Select Committee.
He said: “The purpose of planning is to help make the way we live our lives tomorrow better than it is today.
“This National Planning Policy Framework will help build the homes the next generation needs.
“It supports growth to allow employers to create the jobs our constituents need.
“It protects what we hold dear in our matchless countryside and in the fabric of our history.
“It does so by taking power away from remote bodies and putting it firmly into the hands of the people of England.”
On the whole, the changes were well received by campaigners, who generally agreed the Government had listened to their concerns.
Dame Fiona Reynolds, Director-General of the National Trust, said: “All these changes improve the document and give it a better tone and balance.
“Now the serious business of planning begins. The country needs huge effort at a local level to get plans in place that properly reflect the integration of social, economic and environmental goals, and protect places people value.”
More than 230,000 people had signed the National Trust’s petition against the draft NPPF, which was published last summer.
Shaun Spiers, the chief executive of the CPRE, also said the Government had listened to the “strong public views”.
However, he added the Government’s 12-month transition period may pose a challenge for councils who do not have local plans.
The RSPB described the announcement as a “victory for wildlife” after pledges to protect Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) were made.
Martin Harper, RSPB Conservation Director, said: “This issue has rightly faced high profile scrutiny and has been the subject of heated debate. It’s not the first time this Coalition Government has faced a potential public backlash over an environmental issue.
“From the controversy over the sale of public forestry to reviews of environmental protection such as the Habitats Regulations, the public have made their voices heard loud and clear.
“Let’s hope that after all these bruising debates ministers now have a better understanding of just how important the environment is to the people of this country.”
However, the Woodland Trust insisted woodland was still at risk under the new regulations.
Sue Holden, chief executive, said the new framework had kept a loophole that allowed for the destruction of habitats where the need for development outweighed the loss.
“The wording gives with one hand and takes away with the other,” she said.
“Ancient woodland is rare, irreplaceable, and home to more wildlife of conservation concern than any other land habitat in this country – the retention of the loophole leaves the habitat and all the wildlife that depends on it endangered.
“It will undermine efforts to protect this precious resource for years to come.”
The Government also came under fire for rushing through the reforms without giving MPs a vote and was told that the new policy could result in court action.
Shadow communities and local government secretary Hilary Benn said: “The country needs a planning system that will help produce the much-needed homes and jobs and transport connections of the future, but which also protects the green spaces and special places we value.”
But he told the Commons the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) “may end up doing neither”.
NPPF: Local plans ‘keystone of planning edifice’
By Michael Donnelly Tuesday, 27 March 2012 (Planning)
Planning minister Greg Clark has said the final draft of the national planning policy framework (NPPF) will make the local plan the ‘keystone of the planning edifice’.
In a ministerial statement this afternoon, Clark said a “decade of regional spatial strategies, top-down targets and national planning policy guidance that has swelled beyond reason to over 1,000 pages across 44 documents, has led to communities seeing planning as something done to them, rather than by them.
“And as the planning system has become more complex, it has ground ever slower. In 2004 Parliament required every council to have a plan – eight years on, only around a half have been able to adopt one”.
Clark said the final draft of the NPPF:
- Makes it clear that the local plan is, as the communities and local government select committee put it, the keystone of the planning edifice
- Is crystal clear that sustainable development embraces social and environmental as well as economic objectives and does so in a balanced way;
- Refers explicitly to the five principles of the UK Sustainable Development Strategy;
- Goes further than ever before and is clear that councils should look for net improvements on all dimensions of sustainability;
- Makes explicit that the presumption in favour of sustainable development works through, not against, local plans;
- Makes it clear that relevant policies – such as those protecting the Green Belt, Sites of Special Scientific Interest, National Parks and other areas – cannot be overridden by the presumption;
- Recognises the intrinsic value and beauty of the countryside (whether specifically designated or not);
- Makes explicit what was always implicit: that councils’ policies must encourage brownfield sites to be brought back into use;
- Underlines the importance of town centres, while recognising that businesses in rural communities should be free to expand;
- Takes a localist approach to creating a buffer of housing supply over and above 5 years, and in the use of windfall sites;
- Allows councils to protect back gardens – those precious urban oases
- Ensures that playing fields continue to benefit from that same protection that they do currently.
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said: “This is another important milestone in the Government’s historic mission to transfer power from the hands of unelected bodies and put it in the hands of people and communities. The Localism Act has allowed us to start scrapping Regional Spatial Strategies which gave development a bad name by imposing top down targets that owed nothing to local needs and threatened the Green Belt.
“These reforms go a step further and make it clear that local communities have the responsibility and the power to decide the look and feel of the places they love.”
A letter sent by Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) chief planner to local authorities, issued alongside the document, confirmed the NPPF comes into effect today.
The next issue of Planning, to be published on Thursday 5 April, will contain in-depth analysis of the revised NPPF, including the results of an online survey of practitioners’ views on the reforms. Details of how you can take part in the survey will be released tomorrow.
The National Planning Policy Framework is available here.
Government announces National Planning Policy Framework
Minister Greg Clark has released the final version of the new planning policy. Read reaction from across the public and private sectors and add your thoughts
The government has released the final version of the National PlanningPolicy Framework (NPPF), reducing more than 1000 pages of planning guidance to around 50. From the definition of sustainable development, to concerns about protection of green belt land, the draft policy was met with criticism from many, so how did the final version measure up?
Share your thoughts in the comment thread or tweet us @GdnLocalGov.
Dame Fiona Reynolds, director-general of the National Trust
There are a number of important changes that have been made to the draft, responding to concerns that we and others raised. All these changes improve the document and give it a better tone and balance.
“Now the serious business of planning begins. The country needs huge effort at a local level to get plans in place that properly reflect the integration of social, economic and environmental goals, and protect places people value. The National Trust, along with many other organisations and people, will play our part and watch to see how it works in practice.
Clive Betts, chair of the Commons Communities and Local Government committee
“I am pleased that the government has accepted – in whole or in part – 30 out of 35 of recommendations made by the committee in its report on the draft NPPF.
“The key change is the emphasis which the finalised NPPF places on local plans and local decision making, linked to the change in the definition of sustainable development. I welcome that the final NPPF drops the statement that ‘decision-takers at every level should assume that the default answer to development proposals is “yes”, except where this would compromise the key sustainable development principles set out in this Framework’.
“Other welcome changes include the restoration of a clear emphasis on brown-field development and town centre first, alongside recognition for the requirement for equivalent or improved replacement sports facilities, when existing facilities are lost to development.
“These changes will have strengthened the NPPF. The committee will examine the details of the NPPF in due course.”
Bob Robinson, chairman, DPP planning consultants
“This is a useful, self-contained document to guide both developers and local authorities in the future. The most surprising element following the draft is the immediacy of the transitional arrangements for the framework’s introduction. It was always about making local authorities take responsibility at a local level for development in their area. Those authorities that have chosen not to bring forward planning frameworks since before 2004, quite rightly in my view, are those that will immediately have to operate under the new regime.
“Otherwise the NPPF changes only marginally from the draft – although there have been some useful and necessary clarifications. As anticipated there is further definition of the presumption in favour of sustainable development; it now includes aspects of the Brundtland definition, and the reaffirmation of the protection for the green belt and the town centre first approach also remain.”
Brian Berry, chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders
“It’s good that the government appears to have stuck to its guns and carried out its intended reforms to the planning system which are badly needed if we are to meet our housing needs. Over the next five years the gap between demand for housing and the increase in housing supply is going to grow by more than half a million. It will be the young in our society who are going to suffer unless we can build new homes for them to live in.”
“The NPPF is a step in the right direction but in order to build more homes local planning authorities must allocate sufficient financially viable land for the construction of new homes. Local authorities, local communities and interest groups need to take a more responsible approach to planning, and to permit the introduction of a system that provides sufficient land to satisfy the needs of our growing population.”
Kate Henderson, chief executive, Town and Country Planning Association
“The NPPF highlights the benefits of planning new settlements or extensions to existing villages and towns that follow the principles of garden cities. The garden city vision combines the very best of town and country living to create healthy homes for working people in vibrant communities.
“The recognition in the NPPF and the prime minister’s statement last week provide a unique opportunity for councils to plan for new settlements which enhance the environment, provide high quality affordable housing and locally accessible jobs.”
Shaun Spiers, chief executive of the Campaign to Protect Rural England
“We were very reassured that Greg Clark recognised the intrinsic value of the ordinary countryside ‘whether specifically designated or not’ and stated that the five principles of the UK Sustainable Development Strategy are included in the document.
“We now need to carry out a thorough analysis of the final document. While recognising the scale of the housing crisis, we remain very concerned to ensure that the planning framework does not place undue emphasis on short-term economic growth at the expense of other important long term, public interest objectives of planning, including the protection and enhancement of the environment.
“We are also concerned about the length of the transition period, which at 12 months will pose serious challenges to many local authorities. We hope these councils will be given adequate support to get their plans in place. This will be critical if local people are to have a real voice in planning decisions.”
Mark Henderson, chief executive of Home Group
“As a leading builder of affordable homes, we welcome the decision to simplify planning policy and to focus the minds of planning officials on approving sustainable development unless there is an over-riding reason to refuse.
“Home Group lobbied hard for a greater recognition of the importance of affordable housing in the framework and we’re pleased to see that local planning authorities will be required to clearly set out the rate at which affordable homes will be delivered in their area. The commitment to greater mixed-use development is the correct approach as this is the only way to build stronger communities and avoid ghettoisation.”
Ian Trehearne, planning expert at law firm Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP)
‘Planning authorities will need to engage positively in planning to support growth with quicker and more responsive plans. Where there is no plan, proposals for development will be judged on the national NPPF criteria.
“The green belt is protected. The general value of the countryside for itself – and not just in designated areas – is acknowledged, as are the heritage tests previously in PPS5. But by incorporating rather than separating them, they are put in a different context and brought down to earth. Priority for development is given to previously developed land and a five year housing supply of land is required.
“Emerging local policy will be given transitional weight in areas where there is no completed policy, but in the longer term, planning authorities will need to raise their game very significantly, particularly to deal with housing land requirements if they are to avoid losing at appeal.”
and Guardian editorial
Planning: from builders’ charter to lawyers’ delight
The final draft of the government’s revised planning framework is certainly an improvement on the version put out last summer