The revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) was published on 24 July. The Government has made a number of changes to the draft that was released for consultation earlier in March. The key changes in the updated document relate to improvements to housing and maximising efficiency and are summarised below.
Chapter 2 Achieving sustainable development
Following consultation the Government decided not to make substantial changes to this Chapter. Minor changes that have been made include Footnote 6 to make it clearer that the policies referred to in paragraph 11d are to the policies contained within the NPPF itself.
Chapter 3 Plan-making
The NPPF supports a plan-led system and encourages LPAs to produce strategic policies to address their priorities for development and use of land. In paragraph 17, the use of the term “strategic policies” replaces the earlier reference to “strategic plan” to avoid confusion. Strategic and non- strategic policies together make up the development plan for an area.
Paragraph 23 has been moved. This sets out a requirement for policies to be reviewed at least once every 5 years. A new section entitled “Preparing and Reviewing Plans” has instead been inserted to provide more detail on how the reviews should be carried out and underpinned by “relevant and up-to-date” evidence.
Chapter 4 Decision-making
The NPPF supports plan led policy and the March version recognised that where proposals accorded with up to date policies, no viability assessment would need to accompany the application. Following consultation, though, the Government has included additional wording to allow an applicant to depart from policy if they can demonstrate that particular circumstances justify the need for a viability assessment. The weight to be given to a viability assessment is for the decision maker.
The March Consultation queried whether viability assessments should be publicly available and the final version includes an expectation that they will be. The Government recognises thought that some information may be commercially sensitive information and new planning guidance sets out how information should be presented.
The Government also consulted on whether review mechanisms should be made mandatory but decided to not make this change. Planning guidance sets out how viability can be reviewed over the life of a development.
Chapter 5 Delivering a sufficient supply of homes
The Government has specified that at least 10% of an LPA’s housing requirement (as opposed to 20% under the draft version) should be identified, through the development plan and brownfield registers, on sites of one hectare or less (under the draft this was half a hectare or less). The new drafting also allows for exceptions to be made if there are “strong reasons” why the 10% target cannot be reached.
This policy has been put into place to try and bring forward small and medium sites to support small house builders, speed up delivery and diversify the house building market. The change in the percentage ensures that LPAs are not overly pressured to identify small sites. This could be beneficial as it encourages councils to work with developers to bring forward subdivision of large sites leading to faster building on strategic schemes.
Paragraph 73, (now paragraph 72), has been substantially changed in respect of large scale development for new settlements or extensions to existing villages and towns. The March draft simply emphasised the need for strategic planning. The July version specifies several criteria that need to be taken into account when identifying suitable locations such as sufficiency of infrastructure, services, quality, variety and delivery rates.
Chapter 11 Making effective use of land
The main change within this chapter is to paragraph 119 (same numbering in both versions). LPAs are encouraged to be pro-active in identifying and bringing forward land suitable for development. The new version has been revised to emphasise that this should include identifying opportunities to facilitate site assembly including the use of compulsory purchase powers.
Chapter 12 Achieving well designed places
Chapter 12 deals with design and the opening paragraph has been extended to state that high quality buildings and places is “fundamental to what the planning and development process should achieve“. Good design, the Government adds, is a “key aspect” of sustainable development. Early engagement on design with local community is recommended particularly with larger schemes.
Paragraph 129 (now 130) has also been heavily amended. This requires LPAs to ensure that quality does not diminish on permitted development between grant of consent and completion as a result of changes being approved.
Chapter 13 Protecting the Green Belt
The Government has made little change to its Green Belt policies. The Consultation sought views on the changes that would allow greater use of brownfield sites for housing in the Green Belt and other forms of development that are not “inappropriate”. Most respondents agreed with the changes and so proposed revisions have been kept.
Chapter 16 Conserving and enhancing the historic environment
This Chapter has been left largely as drafted within the March version. However, paragraph 189 (now 193) has been expanded to clarify that when considering the impact of a proposed development on the significance of a heritage asset great weight must be given to its conservation “irrespective” of whether any potential harm amounts to “substantial harm, total loss or less than substantial harm to its significance“.
Annex 2 Glossary
The definition of affordable housing has been amended to make clear that ‘social rent’ and ‘affordable rent’ products fall within the definition of ‘affordable housing for rent’.
In respect of Starter Homes the maximum annual household incomes for eligible buyers that were contained in the draft in March have been removed and must simply accord with any secondary legislation restrictions.
The definition of ‘other affordable routes to home ownership’ has also been amended so that all such products must be made available at a price equivalent to at least 20% below local market value.
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