Influencing Planning and Development
NEW: Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles has written for the Daily Telegraph on "using the National Planning Policy Framework to make the Local Plan king". The article sets out how the NPPF is intended to work. We are very interested to hear what experiences NAVCA members are having of local and neighbourhood planning under the new provisions: Please email Robert Beard.
The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) retains all of the key elements of the draft Framework published in July 2011, including:
- enshrining the local plan - produced by local people - as the keystone of the planning system
- making planning much simpler and more accessible - reducing over 1,300 pages of often impenetrable jargon in 44 separate documents into a clear, readable guide of 50 pages
- establishing a powerful presumption in favour of sustainable development that underpins all local plans and decisions
- guaranteeing robust protections for our natural and historic environment, including the Green Belt, National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Sites of Special Scientific Interest
- encouraging the use of brownfield land in a way determined locally.
The NPPF makes provision for much greater local community involvement in planning for local areas, through the development of Local Plans, Neighbourhood Development Plans and other local policy initiatives. These will, however, be subject to inspection and approval by external inspectors, to ensure that they are in line with national planning policy..
Most importantly, the NPPF contains a new 'Presumption in favour of sustainable development' which provides that development ought to be allowed unless it is contrary to the NPPF or a current Local Plan.
Taking this presumption together with new and significant financial incentives to local councils to allow development proposals, many critics have voiced concerns the local communities will be less empowered to influence planning than the NPPF appears to indicate at first reading.
The Localism Act also reserves powers to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (CLG) to override local planning decisions in certain circumstances.
There is considerable debate about the implications of the NPPF for designated Green Belt and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, as well as the 'everyday areas', such as particular streets or open areas, which have no legally protected status but are nonetheless valued by local people.
Questions have also been raised about the possible effects of the NPPF proposals on vulnerable communities and individuals such as Gypsies and Travellers.
Further government proposals announced on 3 July 2012 "will help to maintain the rapid pace of reform by removing unnecessary barriers, streamlining paperwork, and supporting swifter decision making."
A report from the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee, which examined the role of sustainable development in the Framework, argued that the drive for economic growth should not trump social and environmental sustainability requirements.
In its report on the draft document, the House of Commons Select Committee agreed with the Environmental Audit Committee's findings and called for the removal of the presumption in favour of sustainable development, a clear definition of 'sustainable development', and the balancing of the Framework's emphasis on economic development in local planning decisions with environmental and social concerns. The Select Committee recommended the development of an improved draft Framework and a further short consultation.
Despite its critical comments, the report was welcomed by CLG, but its recommendations were largely rejected.
NAVCA published a briefing paper on the draft NPPF.
Briefings from other organisations:
The Planning Advisory Service had published a checklist to enable local councils to assess their locla plans against the new requirements of the NPPF.
Free practical advice on matters relating to local planning is available from Planning Aid, for communities and individuals who cannot afford to pay professional fees.
The 17 parishes of Upper Eden in Cumbria have become the first neighbourhood to hold a referendum on their Neighbourhood Plan. The vote saw a turnout of 33.7%, in which 1,310 (90%) of those voting backed the plan and 138 opposed it. Planning Minister Nick Boles hailed the occasion as "an historic day for localism".
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