The draft National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) was published by the Government for consultation back in July and media interest in the reactions to it is building (even featuring on last week’s Question Time!). I thought the launch of our new blog provided the perfect opportunity to reflect on the CLG run NPPF workshop I attended a few weeks ago in Leeds.
One of the biggest issues / area of ambiguity that seems to be concerning professionals in both the public and private sector is the effect of the NPPF on existing plans – both saved local plan policies and DPDs that have been adopted as part of a LDF.
The NPPF sets out that LPA’s should grant planning permission where a local plan and/or local policies are absent, silent or out-of-date. These terms aren’t defined and, whilst many comments were made to suggest they should be, there was obvious reluctance from CLG to reconsider this, claiming that it would undermine the flexible nature of the framework. Not quite the case in the housing section where there is a very prescriptive instruction for LPAs to increase their 5 year land supply by 20%!
Comments from local authority representatives centred around their frustrations that recently adopted Core Strategies (and those heading towards examination) would immediately not conform to the NPPF due to this emphasis on this additional land supply, along with problems associated with the emphasis on cross boundary working and the increased significance of viability in assessing whether proposals are deliverable.
The process of seeking a “certificate of conformity” is intended to help with this transition to compliance and will be a voluntary and
broad-brush process. But it’s still unclear how this leaves Core Strategies that don’t conform and the vast majority of LPAs without a core strategy in place, and I share concerns that this will only lead to planning by appeal in many areas.
I’ve come across some very different interpretations of what the additional 20% housing supply means in practical terms over recent weeks, and it certainly generated much discussion at the workshop. It was clear though from the CLG response to requests for clarity that it isn’t intended to be interpreted as additional housing numbers. The emphasis was put on bringing land forward rather than adding to overall housing numbers and, therefore, it’s probably better understood as a rolling six year supply (5 years +20%), that provides LPA’s with greater flexibility and is intended to combat issues of non delivery – though many are less than convinced that this will help boost the country’s house building rate.
The consultation runs until October 17th and we’ll be posting more comments here as the debates continue. In the meantime, if you wish to read the draft NPPF in full follow the link here.