National Planning Policy Framework Newsletter - March 2018

On Monday 5 March, the Government announced its much-anticipated fundamental review of national planning policy.

Many of the proposed changes build upon the Housing White Paper (February 2017), the Planning for the Right Homes in the Right Places consultation (September 2017) and the Budget 2017.  Maximising the use of land, strengthening Green Belt protection and the conversion of planning permissions into homes are said to be "at the heart" of the reforms.  The Housing Secretary, Sajid Javid, said:

"An entire generation is being locked out of a broken housing market as prices and rents race ahead of supply.  Reforming the planning system is the crucial next step to building the homes the country needs.        

This government is determined to fix the broken housing market and restore the dream of home ownership for a new generation.  There is no silver bullet to this problem but we're rewriting the rules on planning so we can take action on all fronts.

In moving to a more integrated society, the focus for everyone, whether a developer or a neighbourhood group, must be to come together to build the homes our communities deserve."

In this Briefing Note, we i) highlight some key proposed changes to the National Planning Policy Framework ("NPPF"); ii) consider the publication of draft Planning Practice Guidance for Viability; iii) examine the separate consultation on reforms to developer contributions towards affordable housing and infrastructure; and conclude with iv) a chapter by chapter summary of the key proposed changes to the NPPF.

Consultation on the revised draft NPPF runs until 10 May 2018, with the Government having stated its desire to produce a final version "before the summer".

Under the heading "Going Further", the Government notes that – in order to deliver 300,000 new homes a year -  more needs to be done.  As such, the Government is considering further planning reforms that could support this ambition, including:

  • The potential use of permitted development rights to find "more solutions to making the most of the spaces we have in delivering the homes we need in the right places", including a new permitted development right for upwards extensions for new homes where existing buildings are lower than the prevailing roofline.
  • In locations where there is a need to find extra land to deliver the homes needed locally, "exploring wider measures to support farm diversification and housing in the rural economy".
Beyond housing, there are other notable challenges ahead.  In particular, an important test will be how successful the NPPF is in fulfilling the Government's 25-Year Environment Plan, published in January this year, particularly as over the life of that Plan there will be no assurance that UK environmental laws and policies will remain aligned with those of the EU.  In this regard, Stephen Tromans QC considers that "although the draft text of the revised NPPF contains some helpful statements, such as on the protection to be accorded to irreplaceable assets such as ancient woodland; planning for the enhancement of natural capital; and identification of opportunities to improve air quality or mitigate impacts on it", in the real world of planning, "the devil lies in the detail, and it is questionable whether the wording of policies is robust enough to deliver what is promised by the rhetoric on net environmental gain and improving air quality".  Given that the draft is quite weak on the issue of climate change and the Government's duties under the Climate Change Act 2008, "maybe that is no longer a "sexy" enough issue for politicians?"

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