Head of Planning Gives Cautious Welcome to NPPF
The Head of Planning at national law firm, Irwin Mitchell, has welcomed the Government’s revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) - but has raised concerns that its ability to drive new development will depend on how quickly Councils can update their local policies.
The Government published its 50-page NPPF on 27 March with the aim of simplifying planning rules and encouraging growth. The report gives guidelines on a wide range of issues including house building, as well as rules in relation to town centres and Brownfield developments.
Oliver Martin, Partner at Irwin Mitchell and National Head of the law firm's planning team, said: "On the whole the NPPF provides more prominence for the growth agenda in the planning process, and this is to be welcomed. Given the clear messages in the guidance local planning authorities will be far less inclined to seek to rely on out dated local plan polices.
“However, whether or not the NPPF serves to deliver the needed development in the right places will depend on how quickly local plans can be updated to reflect the national framework and how local planning authorities interpret the guidance in progressing their local plan policies.”
Mr. Martin said: "The NPPF provides no great surprises and does not depart significantly from the consultation draft issued last year. Those concerned as to how 1000 pages of guidance are reduced to 50 pages of guidance will remain concerned – the impact of the new national guidance will only really be known once the interpretation of the key guidance is tested at appeal and in the Courts.
"One important change is the introduction of the transitional arrangements in Annex 1 – there is now a 12 month transition period during which local plan policies adopted since 2004 should be given full weight even where there is a limited degree of conflict with the NPPF. Some local planning authorities have older plans and this will therefore have an immediate impact on those authorities. In other cases and following the end of the 12 month period, weight should be given to relevant local plan policies according to the degree of consistency with the NPPF.
"The impact of the NPPF in the short term and longer term will hinge on the interpretation of these provisions and in particular the assessment of consistency of local plan policies with the NPPF."
Commenting on changes to Housing, Mr. Martin said: "The principle of local authorities having a 5 year housing land supply is retained with an additional buffer of 5%. Importantly, where there has been a record of persistent under delivery of housing, local planning authorities should increase the buffer to 20%. As there is no clear indication as to what will be construed as a track record of under delivery, this requirement for an additional 20% buffer could become a hotly contested issue.
"The wording remains largely unchanged in relation to green belt, however, those concerned in this respect will take some comfort from the fact that the effective use of brownfield land is encouraged as one of the core planning principles set out in the NPPF."
He added: "Proposals in relation to Town Centre planning remain similar to the consultation draft but office use has been re-introduced as a town centre use to which the sequential test will apply.
"Applications for office use outside of town centres, in addition to retail and leisure, will require an impact assessment where the proposals are not in accordance with an up to date local plan."