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  6. National Planning Policy Framework unveiled

National Planning Policy Framework unveiled

English planning authorities with approved local plans in place will have 12 months to ensure their strategies conform to the Government’s National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) now published and in force.

Planning Minister Greg Clark announced the transition arrangements, agreed with the Local Government Association (LGA), when he unveiled the final version of the NPPF in a statement to the Commons.

He said the wording of the NPPF had been amended significantly from last year’s draft, which had been the subject of a huge consultation exercise – and considerable debate.

Clark told Parliament that the Coalition had accepted “in whole or in part” 30 out of 35 recommendations to amend the draft NPPF proposed by Commons select committees.

The minister stressed that the NPPF:

  • made it clear that the local plan was the keystone of the planning regime
  • was crystal clear that sustainable development embraces social and environmental as well as economic objectives and does so in a balanced way
  • referred explicitly to the five principles of the UK Sustainable Development Strategy
  • went further than ever before and is clear that councils should look for net improvements on all dimensions of sustainability
  • made explicit that the presumption in favour of sustainable development works through, not against, local plans
  • made it clear that relevant policies - such as those protecting the Green Belt, Sites of Special Scientific Interest, National Parks and other areas - cannot be overridden by the presumption
  • recognised the intrinsic value and beauty of the countryside (whether specifically designated or not)
  • made explicit what was always implicit: that councils' policies must encourage brownfield sites to be brought back into use
  • underlined the importance of town centres, while recognising that businesses in rural communities should be free to expand
  • embraced a localist approach to creating a buffer of housing supply over and above five years, and in the use of windfall sites
  • allowed councils to protect back gardens - those precious urban oases
  • ensured that playing fields continue to benefit from that same protection that they do currently.

The policy guidance in the NPPF runs to just over 50 pages. The new-look planning policy replaces over 1,300 pages of guidance and policy contained in 44 separate documents.

The minister said: "The new Framework has been strengthened by the responses to the consultation. We have confirmed the core reforms, sharpened the definition of the policies, and emphasised the essential balance that the planning system must achieve.

"These reforms will help build the homes the next generation needs, it will let businesses expand and create jobs, and it will conserve what we hold dear in our matchless countryside and the fabric of our history."

Find out more about the National Planning Policy Framework.

Roger Milne

28 March 2012