Yesterday was a rare day when planning made the main headlines,
thanks to the publication of the final version of the National
Planning Policy Framework. #NPPF was even trending on Twitter at
one point. You can find it here. There are endless commentaries on the
text, so today's entry focuses on the main paragraph of concern
and how the NPPF covers nationally significant infrastructure.
What of paragraph 14, which said that permission should be
granted if local plans are absent or silent, unless adverse impacts
significantly outweigh the benefits? Expectations were that local
authorities who didn't have an up to date plan would be given
more time to produce one, and the draft said that those that did
would be able to apply for a 'certificate of conformity' to
say that their plans were still compatible with the NPPF.
Paragraph 14 is still there, albeit with a further proviso that
permission should be refused if specific policies in the NPPF
indicate that development should be restricted. Planning
authorities that have created a local plan since 2004 are rewarded
by being given a year where conflicts with the NPPF are resolved in
favour of the local plan (paragraph 214), but those without one
have no transitional provision. Rather than certificates of
conformity, references to which have been removed, free advice from
the Local Government Association, the Planning Inspectorate and the
government is on offer as to whether plans need updating (paragraph
217). Call 0303 444 5500.
Arguably the 'duty to cooperate' in the Localism Act
2011 is strengthened by paragraph 181, which requires local
authorities to demonstrate evidence of having cooperated when their
plans are submitted for examination, although this has not changed
from the draft NPPF (paragraph 46 - the number demonstrating that
the final NPPF has moved things around a lot, without necessarily
changing the wording).
What about infrastructure in particular? Nationally significant
infrastructure projects (NSIPs) do not need planning permission, so
you might think that the NPPF was not relevant to them. That is not
entirely the case.
Paragraph 3 says that the NPPF does not contain specific
policies for NSIPs, but matters that the government consider
'important and relevant' when making decisions on NSIP
applications (the phrase in the Planning Act equivalent to
'material considerations') may include the NPPF. Promoters
should therefore be aware of the compatibility or otherwise of
their projects with the NPPF.
The draft NPPF only implied that NSIPs were not covered by the
NPPF, and did not suggest it was relevant to decisions (paragraph
6), so this is new. The NPPF has come instantly into force, so this
is even relevant to 'live' NSIP applications.
Paragraph 162 says that local planning authorities should work
with other authorities and providers to take account of the need
for strategic infrastructure, including nationally significant
infrastructure within their areas. This is the same wording as in
the draft (paragraph 31).
The interface between local plans and the Planning Act regime
has been brought to the fore with the Hinkley Point C application
(see, for example, paragraph 73 of the Sedgemoor Core Strategy
Inspector's Report), and the treatment of this issue in the
NPPF will no doubt be the subject of ongoing debate.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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