Since its introduction in March 2012 the coalition Government's flagship National Planning Policy Framework ('NPPF'). The NPPF replaced an established and substantial body of planning policy and guidance with a single slim line 59 page document. It has been a frequent feature in the news headlines and has earned a considerable amount of judicial scrutiny.
The Communities and Local Government Committee published their report on the "Operation of the National Planning Framework" on 16th December 2014. The committee's concluded that:
- The NPPF is not preventing unsustainable development;
- That it is leading to communities being subject to inappropriate and unwanted housing; and
- It is giving insufficient protection to England's town centres.
Despite these unflattering conclusions the committee stop short of recommending the withdrawal of the NPPF and instead recommend a number of revisions to the Framework and Planning Practise Guidance and suggests further work to be undertaken with PINS and local authorities.
Some notable recommended revisions to the NPPF include:
- Clarity as to the definition of what constitutes "sustainable development" in practise and removing the unhelpful reference on page 2 which explains the government's view that "sustainable development" means paragraphs 18 to 219 of the NPPF read as a whole;
- Amendments to paragraph 89 (Green Belt Land) to enable neighbourhood plans allocate land on green belt for development where the local authority is in agreement;
- Amendments to paragraph 68 (five year housing supply) to ensure that all sites with planning permission are included in a local authorities assessment of their five year housing supply, preventing developers from arguing that permitted sites are unlikely to come forward within five years and should be excluded from the count.
Interestingly, the Report acknowledges the disquiet caused by paragraph 49, which allows housing policies to be considered out of date where a local authority cannot demonstrate a five year housing land supply, but does not propose any substantive amendment.
On the whole the Report reflects many of the concerns raised in the first two years of the NPPF. It remains to be seen how the Government, with a general election looming, will respond to the Committee's recommendations.
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