National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) Update

The government has recently (19th December 2023) revised the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) along with issuing a written ministerial statement.

Whilst there are some broad changes, the amendments primarily relate to housing development.

Green Belt

The revised NPPF affords greater protection to the Greenbelt. It confirms that once established there is no requirement for Greenbelt boundaries to be reviewed during the preparation of new local plans. Local authorities can still review and alter Greenbelt boundaries, however this would need to be justified with exceptional circumstances which are fully evidenced. Until this point local authorities typically reviewed their Greenbelt boundaries during the local plan preparation process to allocate sites for further development. This will no longer be the case as there is no specific requirement for this.

The government has also updated its planning policy guidance on use of the Greenbelt. A paragraph has been added (Paragraph: 004 Reference ID: 64-004-20231219) which clarifies that on previously developed land within the Greenbelt, development may not be inappropriate, for instance limited in filling or the partial or complete redevelopment of previously developed land subject to maintaining the openness of the Greenbelt. 


The revised NPPF also provides more focus on the appearance of completed developments and ensuring that the quality is not diminished over the course of construction. Paragraph 140 now states:

planning conditions [should] refer to clear and accurate plans and drawings which provide visual clarity about the design of the development, and are clear about the approved use of materials where appropriate. This will provide greater certainty for those implementing the planning permission on how to comply with the permission and a clearer basis for local planning authorities to identify breaches of planning control. 

The introduction of this policy has come about in response to the watering down of design quality through the construction phase of a development. Insufficiently detailed drawings can result in a lack of clarity regarding proposed designs and ultimately in completed developments falling short of required standards in terms of their appearance. This will increase the need for architects and designers to ensure that their planning drawings are accurate and show a sufficient level of detail.


At the same time as publishing the updated NPPF, the government also issued its response to the December 2022 consultation on planning reform. A key part of this reform is the introduction of a new system of plan making whereby there will be National Development Management Policies (NDMPs) which cover issues that are consistent across local authority areas. This will allow local plans to focus only on locally important issues rather than replicate policies which are common across all local authority areas. The aim of this is to simplify the plan making process and local plans, making them easier to understand and use, and enabling local authorities to more quickly and more frequently update their local plan. It is also proposed that the size of the evidence base required to produce a local plan will be reduced. However, there remain various uncertainties around how this will work in practice and what the national development management policies will cover.

Retrofitting of energy efficiency measures

Another welcome change in the revised NPPF is that it puts more weight on the need to retrofit existing buildings with energy efficient and low carbon heating systems including in both domestic and non-domestic settings. Whilst such changes may make it more likely to obtain planning permission for such energy efficiency measures, we note that this is a nuanced issue and the barriers to widespread adoption of new technologies such as heat pumps go well beyond the planning system. Specialist training is required in order to expand the knowledge and expertise around the installation of energy efficiency measures particularly in historic buildings which do not use modern methods of construction and require a different approach to energy efficiency.

Housing land supply

The updated NPPF also introduces various policies around housing delivery and housing land supply. One key aspect is that local planning authorities with a plan adopted in past 5 years do not need to annually demonstrate a 5-year housing land supply.

Changes have also been made in relation to neighbourhood planning. Where a presumption of sustainable development would conflict with a neighbourhood plan, more weight is now given to the neighbourhood plan by increasing the period from two years to five years within which the adverse impact for granting planning permission is likely to significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits. 


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