National Planning Policy Framework published
. The new NPPF takes effect immediately, and is now amaterial consideration in the determination of all new planning permissions.
The previous draft NPPF created controversy over itspresumption in favour of sustainable development, the perceived risk of loss ofprotection for the Green Belt, changes to the way the five-year housing landsupply calculation was to be done and for fears that the “town centre first”policy for new retail and office developments had been undermined. Theheadlines in the final NPPF on those topics are:
Definition of “Sustainable Development"
The NPPF has strengthened the definition of SustainableDevelopment, incorporating wording from the Brundtland report, and crossreferring to the UK Sustainable Development Strategy.
Presumption in favour of development
Applications which accord with the development plan must beapproved without delay, and where the relevant development plan is absent,silent or the relevant policies are out of date, planning permission should begranted unless the adverse impacts of development would “significantly anddemonstrably outweigh the benefits, when assessed against the policies in theFramework taken as a whole; or specific policies in the Framework indicatedthat development should be restricted”.
Green Belt protection
Protection for Green Belt land in the NPPF has beenstrengthened. “Substantial weight” must be given to any harm to the Green Belt,and the “very special circumstances” which must be shown to justify approval ofinappropriate development in the Green Belt will not exist unless the harm is“clearly outweighed” by other considerations.
Re-use of Brownfield Land
The policy requiring local authorities to prioritise re-useof previously developed land is retained. The change in the final NPPF is thatlocal authorities may continue to consider setting a local target for the useof brownfield land.
Housing Land Supply
Local authorities must produce and update annually a supplyof specific deliverable sites sufficient to provide five years' housing supplyagainst plan requirements, with a buffer of 5%. Whilst the draft NPPF includeda requirement for a buffer of 20%, in the final plan this will only apply toauthorities that have persistently failed to deliver housing against their targets.
The NPPF brings offices and leisure uses back into the scopeof the town centres policy, and retains the requirement for sequential testing.Applications which fail the sequential test or are likely to have significantadverse impacts should be refused. This is in line with the previous PPS4position. In the plan-making context, the NPPF stresses the importance ofensuring that needs for retail, leisure, office and other main town centre usesare “met in full and are not compromised by limited site availability”.
Local authorities are urged to ensure that development plansare deliverable, and that new development sites are not subject to such a scaleof obligations as to threaten their ability to be developed viably. Local authoritiesare urged to discuss the need for conditions or s106 obligations with thedeveloper and to explore the options for keeping the costs of those to aminimum, but it is clear that development should not be approved if thenecessary mitigation measures cannot be secured.
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