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  6. Government unveils sustainable development presumption

Government unveils sustainable development presumption

The government has published its proposed wording for the new presumption in favour of sustainable development. The presumption will be central to both the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and the Government’s planning reforms.

At this juncture, ministers are not consulting on the text: that stage will come when the draft NPPF is published next month.

Communities and Local Government has stressed that the presumption should be "at the heart of the planning system, which should be central to the approach taken to both plan-making and decision-taking".

Accordingly “local planning authorities (LPAs) should plan positively for new development, and approve all individual proposals wherever possible”.

The presumption states that LPAs should:

  • prepare local plans on the basis that objectively assessed development needs should be met, and with sufficient flexibility to respond to rapid shifts in demand or other economic changes
  • approve development proposals that accord with statutory plans without delay
  • grant permission where the plan is absent, silent, indeterminate or where relevant policies are out of date.

The statement adds that "all of these policies should apply unless the adverse impacts of allowing development would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits, when assessed against the policy objectives in the NPPF taken as a whole".

Decentralisation minister Greg Clark told delegates at the Planning Convention organised by the Royal Town Planning Institute that every local council should plan positively for new development.

He said this would be the case “unless to do so would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the policy objectives of sustainable development - defined, economically, environmentally and socially”.

He told RTPI conference delegates: “If I look at the planning profession, I sometimes think it has been slow to see change coming, and indeed has almost been taken by surprise by it, rather than anticipating and shaping that change to the maximum extent possible.

"In other words, paradoxically, it hasn't always been in this respect that good at planning.”

The minister added: “Too often it has been commenting on others' proposals rather than seizing the initiative and shaping the change itself”.

Read the 'Presumption in favour of sustainable development'.

Read the full transcript of Greg Clark's speech to the RTPI Planning Convention.

Roger Milne

16 June 2011