It is nearly 3 years since the government converted hundreds of pages of planning policy into a single 50 page document, the National Planning Policy Framework, with the promotion of sustainable development at its heart. But has the NPPF made a difference? The House of Commons CLG Committee recently published its report on the operation of the NPPF. It concluded:
- The NPPF needs more time to bed in, and the government needs to collect more data, before a full assessment can be made.
- The evidence highlights a number of emerging concerns: the NPPF is failing to prevent unsustainable development in some areas; inappropriate housing is being imposed upon some communities as a result of speculative planning applications; and town centres are insufficiently protected against the threat of out of town development.
- Accordingly, the policy needs to be strengthened:
- First, to ensure that sustainable development is delivered, the same weight must be given to the environmental and social dimensions as to the economic one. Permission should be granted only where supported by infrastructure, and emphasis must be placed on the natural environment.
- Second, councils must adopt development plans more quickly.
- Third, the complex issue of the supply of housing land must be addressed so that loopholes are closed, and guidance on the assessment of housing need is clarified. Green belt reviews should be encouraged.
- Finally, town centres must be better protected, through changes to permitted development rights.
“Could do better” seems to be the assessment. But following May’s general election, will the new government have the appetite to implement any changes?