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  6. Draft planning framework published

Draft planning framework published

The draft National Planning and Policy Framework (NPPF) for England was published this week.

The Home Builders Federation welcomed it as “the basis for a more pro-growth planning system which could support a desperately needed increase in house building”.

Stewart Baseley, executive chairman at HBF, said: “The emphasis in the NPPF on achieving an improved housing supply is positive. But how local authorities implement the policy remains critical and will require a change of culture across the board if it is to be transformational.

“The nation's housing shortage dictates that if local authorities are not implementing this document properly, central Government will have to strengthen the guidance ever further. This is the most important planning document since the Town and Country Planning Act of 1947 - it is vital we get it right.”

Katja Hall, CBI chief policy director, said: “Cutting back the reams of planning policy and guidance we currently have makes absolute sense. A clear, digestible guide to local planning decisions will ensure that local authorities are well-informed about national priorities and the need for development.

“The publication of this new framework is a chance for the Government to rebuild investor confidence in a planning system which has been shaken by a year of rapid reforms and ripped-up policy.”

Kate Henderson, chief executive of planning think-tank the Town and Country Planning Association welcomed the Government’s intent but warned of “vagueness around some of the key concepts, such as the presumption in favour of sustainable development, which may be subject to clarification through the courts”.

"While we share the Government's ambition of making planning more accessible to communities, making something shorter does not automatically make it clearer. Planning has to deal with complex problems and sometimes needs detailed policy responses."

Richard Summers, president of the Royal Town Planning Institute, said: “The NPPF is a missed opportunity. We are concerned that the draft NPPF will not secure balanced economic and housing growth across England.

“Economic growth is generally set to trump the aspirations of local communities expressed in local and neighbourhood plans. The relationship between the presumption in favour of sustainable development and the primacy of locally-led development plans is not clear.“

But he added that the NPPF “does begin to go in the right direction towards a National Spatial Planning Framework for England that the RTPI has campaigned for more than ten years”.

Shaun Spiers, chief executive at the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: “The draft planning framework is an improvement on the version we saw earlier this month, but major problems remain.

“The new framework will make the countryside and local character much less safe from damaging and unnecessary development. If it is not amended, there will be battles against development across the country that will make the public revolt against the sale of the forests look like a tea party.”

Planning and urban design consultancy Turley Associates welcomed the draft NPPF as “a brave attempt at simplifying what has become an unwieldy body of policy, reinstating the principle that well conceived development is a good and necessary thing”. 

“The presumption in favour of sustainable development is the most welcome part of the Framework and is essential if the Coalition’s pro-growth agenda is to be met.” 

However, the National Trust said that the proposals “could lead to unchecked and damaging development in the undesignated countryside on a scale not seen since the 1930s”.

The Trust’s director-general, Fiona Reynolds, said: “Weakening protection now risks a return to the threat of sprawl and uncontrolled development that so dominated public debate in the 1930s.”

Responding to the National Trust, a Department for Communities and Local Government spokesperson said: "This is plain wrong. The draft policy framework fulfils the commitment in the coalition agreement to protect the Green Belt and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. There are similarly strong protections for the historic environment, which have been welcomed by heritage bodies. These protections are crystal clear in the document.

"In fact the policy framework gives communities a brand new opportunity to protect those green spaces outside of the Green Belt that are of particular special value to the community.

"There is a strict test that all new growth must be sustainable. Where it is consistent with environmental objectives - including maintaining the Green Belt - proposals should proceed without delay.

"These reforms allow local people to participate in planning. Having 1,000 pages of planning policy made policy less clear and excluded communities."

Access the draft National Planning Policy Framework.

Access a short summary of the main proposals in the draft Framework.

Access the consultation. 

Roger Milne

28 July 2011