National Planning Policy Framework 2018
The highly anticipated review of national planning policy was announced by the Government on Monday 5 March 2018.
To help achieve the target of building 300,000 new homes each year, a major overhaul of the National Planning Policy Framework ("NPPF") is expected, with a focus on maximising the use of land, strengthening Green Belt protection and converting planning permissions into homes. The former Housing Secretary Sajid Javid said that the Government was "rewriting the rules on planning so we can take action on all fronts".
As part of the review, a consultation has opened on the proposed changes to the NPPF which was first published in 2012. In developing the new draft the Government has incorporated:
- proposals from the previous planning consultations, taking into account the views raised in response to them
- changes to planning policy implemented through Written Ministerial Statements since publication of the first Framework in 2012
- the effect of case law on the interpretation of planning policy since 2012
- improvements to the text to increase coherence and reduce duplication
The Government states in the introduction to the draft NPPF that their ambition is to ensure 'that it is as effective as possible in improving the supply of homes'. Unsurprisingly then, the review is mostly focused on housing and, in particular, improving delivery and increasing affordable housing provision.
There will still be continuity with the existing framework, with the presumption in favour of sustainable development remaining at the heart of the NPPF. Although there are some changes, intended to improve its application, and provide greater clarity to address aspects that have been subject to litigation about their scope or meaning. The presumption in favour of sustainable development will be engaged not only if the local planning authority is unable to demonstrate a five year supply of housing land, but also where the delivery of housing has been substantially below the housing requirement over the previous three years. Local planning authorities that rely heavily on a number of large strategic development sites coming forward to meet their housing supply should pay particular attention to this.
The draft highlights the Governments intention for the planning system in England to be a plan-led one, with a focus on strategic policies. A key proposal is the expectation for objectively assessed needs to be accommodated unless there are strong reasons not to, including any unmet needs from neighbouring areas.
In terms of viability, the paragraphs of the current NPPF have been revised so that when development proposals are in line 'with all the relevant policies in an up to date development plan' there will be no requirement for a viability assessment to be submitted, shifting the focus from dealing with such assessments at the decision-making stage. Local plans will instead set out where additional viability assessments might be required at the planning application stage.
The draft NPPF focuses generally on increasing homes but Neighbourhood plans are also to get more certainty in some circumstances, including where there is substantial under-delivery of housing. Certain plans will now be protected so that where the adverse impacts of allowing development conflict with a neighbourhood plan, such adverse impacts are likely to significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits. It is believed that this will be more effective than the previous position of setting out the 'weight' that should be afforded to plans.
Green Belt land also gains greater protection from development. Local authorities should now fully examine all other 'reasonable options' for meeting their identified need for development before concluding that 'exceptional circumstances' justify any amendment to Green Belt boundaries. 'Reasonable options' include determining whether suitable brownfield sites and underutilised land have been used as much as possible, whether density of development has been optimised and whether local authorities have used a statement of common ground to explore options for meeting their need with neighbouring authorities, all whilst considering offsetting measures.
Away from the attention on housing strategy, there is a proposal for local authorities to look ten years ahead when setting policies on the allocation of sites for town centre uses. Changes to the sequential test for town centre uses mean that out of centre sites will only be considered if town centre locations are not expected to be available within a reasonable period.
A reform of section 106 agreements and the Community Infrastructure Levy was announced alongside this consultation, with more clarity and certainty around developer contributions expected.
With the consultation closing on 10 May 2018, a final version of the rewritten rules is anticipated by this summer.
For more information, please get in touch with Marco Mauro, or give us a call on 0345 070 6000.