NATIONAL PLANNING …
As part of the government’s ongoing reforms of the planning system, the 57-page National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) was published on 27th March 2012, setting out the government’s pro-growth attitude to development. The NPPF is now critical in setting policy objectives, against which local plans are being prepared and decisions made on planning applications.
• planning policy should be pro-growth and deliver rather than prevent development
• there should be a presumption in favour of sustainable development
• development should be approved if it is in accordance with the development plan
• where there is no development plan or it is out-of-date, development should be approved unless the adverse impact would ‘significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits’
Retail, office and economy
• the emphasis on ‘town-centre first’ is maintained, but there are changes to sequential site assessments and retail impact assessments
• the revitalisation of town centres is heralded, markets are protected and encouraged, and town centre housing endorsed
• significant weight is placed on supporting sustainable economic growth
• local plans are required to plan positively and flexibly for business, particularly for knowledge-driven, creative and high technology industries
• as per PPS4, offices are still considered town centre uses, making out-of-centre office developments potentially harder to plan for
• existing employment sites, which have no reasonable prospect of economic development, are not protected
Green Belt and Open Space
• green belt policy is maintained, almost word for word. The ‘very special circumstances’ tests remain for inappropriate development but are marginally more pro-development. There is more potential for infill development and redevelopment of previously developed sites
• open spaces are strongly protected, as are National Parks and AONBs
• there is an emphasis on boosting housing supply significantly
• housing land availability assessments and market assessments remain in place, but the policy also requires LPAs to consider new settlements and urban extensions as a means of achieving sustainable development
• for house-builders, there are some useful affordable housing changes, which include a revised definition of affordable, as ‘remaining at an affordable price for future eligible households or for the subsidy to be recycled or alternative affordable provision’
• there is more scope for providing affordable housing off-site or for commuted payments.
• climate change policy remains the same
• there is an opportunity to promote outstanding or innovative design to overcome other planning objections, potentially providing significant opportunities for certain types of development
• ‘heritage assets’ remain protected, but the emphasis is on ‘sustaining and enhancing’ heritage assets, which is at odds with legislation which requires ‘preservation or enhancement’
Implications for developers
The removal of swathes of national planning policy means that many policy issues will be open to interpretation. With less detail comes less certainty and more scope for justifying schemes on a case-by-case basis. However this is coupled with the general ‘pro-development’ stance of the NPPF. This will create greater opportunities for developers and landowners.
Implications for ECA-P
ECA-P’s multi-disciplinary team of architects and planners has been refocusing its attentions on the implications of the NPPF for a number of months now, be it through our development plan monitoring work, planning application submissions, master planning or architectural work.
If you want to learn more about the implications of the NPPF for you, your land or your community, we would be happy to talk with you.