Since 2012 the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) became the proverbial Bible of the Planning system making it less complex and more accessible. It vastly simplified the number of policy pages about planning and along with the planning practice guidance (PPG) provided a much needed shake up of draconian planning process.
The revised NPPF has been published this afternoon in a bid to once again shake up the development process, some of the main changes involve:
- Changes to the definition of, and the presumption in favour of, sustainable development;
- Removal of the section setting out the government’s core planning principles;
- New duties for strategic plan-making, including addressing key strategic priorities;
- New duty for planning authorities to prepare statements to document cross-boundary issues;
- Amended wording for soundness tests underpinning plan examinations; Including that a plan must be ‘an’ appropriate strategy – not ‘the most’ – which may have implications for those pushing for sites to be included in a Local Plan.
- Introduction of new standard method for assessing local housing need. This new method will come into force in late January, six months after the new NPPF’s publication. However, the government said it will consider adjusting the methodology in order to meet its 300,000-homes-a-year target in light of the impending publication of new household growth projections that are likely to be lower than previous estimates. It will “consult on the specific details” when the new projection figures are published in September.
- Requirements for authorities relating to housing delivery, including small sites target. Councils must accommodate 10% of their housing requirement on small sites, as opposed to 20% of sites under the draft version;
- Introduction of the housing delivery test to determine need for action plan and performance against homes requirement. The test will measure the number of homes created against local housing need and penalise councils that underdeliver against various thresholds over a three-year period. This includes applying the presumption in favour of sustainable development where delivery is below 75 per cent of the housing requirement from 2020.
- LPAs to have to meet a tougher test to prove that their housing sites are deliverable;
- The importance of design standards is emphasised. The creation of high-quality buildings and places is ‘fundamental’ to what the planning and development process should achieve, the revised NPPF states. In particular, councils should try to “ensure that the quality of approved development is not materially diminished between permission and completion, as a result of changes being made to the permitted scheme.
- Encouragement for LPAs to allow changes of use to housing and minimum density standards;
- New rules for how LPAs should decide whether ‘exceptional circumstances’ exist for green belt changes;
- The approach advocated in the written ministerial statement issued in 2016 on neighbourhood development plans is enshrined. Paragraph 14 says that where the presumption in favour of sustainable development would otherwise apply in the absence of relevant or up-to-date plan policies, the adverse impact of allowing housing schemes that conflict with Neighbourhood Development Plans is likely to “significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits” where the plan was adopted two years or less before the decision, it contains policies and allocations to meet its identified housing requirement and the local planning authority has at least a three-year supply of deliverable housing sites against its five year requirement, including any appropriate buffer against under delivery. In addition, the planning authority’s record must show that at least 45 per cent of homes required were delivered over the previous three years, the document says.