Looking into the Planning crystal ball

Posted by Keith Lancaster on
It doesn't take a great sleuth to notice the creep of additional policies to the National Planning Policy Framework ("NPPF") that continues to occur. Let's not forget, the purpose of the NPPF was to consolidate, amalgamate and simplify the plethora of planning policy statements and it wasn't long ago that the government's webpage for the NPPF had a clean and shiny look about it.

Look today and there are links to other planning policies that "should be read alongside" the NPPF dealing with waste, travellers, schools, SUDs, parking and, now, starter homes. Starter homes has even been given its own page in the National Planning Practice Guidance notes. Another list which continues to grow every time I have to look at it.

Remember this is all in the pursuit of simplicity, ease of use, efficiency…..

Let's not forget that the abolition of Regional Strategies left the odd policy remaining (South East Plan NRM 6).

Then there's the continuing growth of devolution which, given London retained its Regional Strategy (the London Plan), indicates that there might be amongst others a Manchester or North West Plan in the near future. Lo and behold we will have regional strategies in another guise.

Quite recently the judgment in the West Berks case put a (temporary?) end to vacant building credit and blanket affordable housing policy exemption for small development sites.

In short, planning remains a moving minefield.

Now, there is the select committee on "national policy for the built environment" which has recently called for written evidence and will be looking at a number of policy issues in England. Included amongst matters to be considered are questions over:

  • decisions being taken at the right administrative level;
  • what role for national policy makers;
  • does the NPPF provide sufficient policy guidance;
  • are some factors in the NPPF more important than others;
  • introduction of a spatial element into the NPPF;
  • government role in addressing housing supply and effect of recent changes;
  • do practitioners of built environment professions have adequate skills to think holistically;
  • is sufficient account taken of the effect on health and behaviour of users of the built environment;
  • effectiveness of community engagement.

It is quite a list and provides good insight into government thinking. It reflects the age old tussle between development and community engagement. It highlights possible uncertainty with the NPPF and opens the door further for the reincarnation of regional policy in some form. It even seeks to question the ability of professionals in the sector.

If you want to be involved the deadline is the 6 October 2015. Click here for a link to the website.

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Keith specialises in planning law, advising in major projects and infrastructure, energy and renewables in the commercial, industrial and residential sectors.

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