The Government has responded to MPs on the Commons Environmental Audit Committee who wrote to the Prime Minister calling for a clearer definition of sustainable development in the yet to be finalised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).
The all-party group argued that in its current form, the planning framework definition “presents different messages to different audiences about what the presumption in favour of sustainable development actually means in practice”.
The MPs said clarification was critical as the definition would “be used as a material consideration in planning decisions and might have to be tested in the courts”. The committee has urged a definition that makes it clear that a ‘sustainable development’ should not breach environmental limits (on water use or waste disposal, for instance).
Committee chair Joan Walley MP said: “There are environmental limits to how much development any one area can sustain and the Government should acknowledge this in the final draft of the NPPF.”
A Government statement said: "We are determined to deliver a simpler planning system which makes absolutely clear the Government's intention to provide the homes and jobs that the next generation needs while protecting our priceless countryside.
"The planning system has always enshrined the principle that the economic, environmental and social dimensions of sustainable development should be considered in a balanced way – and it will continue to do so.
"The Framework also aims to strengthen local decision making and reinforce the importance of local plans. It was always our intention to ensure that appropriate transitional arrangements are in place before the new Framework comes into force.
"The Government is grateful to the Environmental Audit Committee for their comments on the draft. We will consider their comments as well as the recent Parliamentary debates on the issue and representations made during the consultation period."
17 November 2011