National Planning Policy Framework Draft: Changes to Town Planning in London

How will the NPPF impact London Planning?

After two and half years and several drafts, the 5th March was finally the day when the Government published the long-awaited draft National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) accompanied by numerous supporting consultation documents such as Developer Contributions, Draft Viability Guidance and Housing Delivery Test Measurement Rule Book. The focus of the draft revised NPPF and Prime Minister Theresa May’s speech was the housing crisis and ways it can be resolved. 

The revised framework is now divided into 17 topic-based chapters (arguably similar to the previous PPSs/PPGs) where the order reflects the new priorities of the Government to deliver solutions to the housing crisis through the plan-led system. As housing is the key focus of the document, it aims at the delivery of ‘a sufficient supply of homes’ to reach the 300,000 homes per year target while increasing affordable housing provision. 

Local Plans

The Government’s intention for a plan-led English planning system is also obvious with the focus on strategic policies rather than just Local plans. Strategic Policies will be planned for a 15 year period while there will be a requirement for local plan policies to be reviewed at least once every five years.

Viability Assessments

Following the stakeholders’ call for change the revisions of the viability assessment paragraphs of the current NPPF is one of the key changes in the draft. There will be no need to submit a viability assessment when a proposal accords ‘with all the relevant policies in an up-to date development plan’. 

Green Belt

As usual the Green Belt became a topic of much debate and the government have sided with the CPRE and rural voters in tightening policy further. Plan-makers will be required to examine first all other options for meeting need for development before releasing Green Belt land for other allocations. However, affordable housing development on brownfield land in the Green Belt which would not cause substantial harm to openness and would meet identified need would not be considered inappropriate development in Green Belt and will be allowed. 

Affordable Housing

Affordable housing will not to be required on sites of 10 or fewer units while it will also be reduced by a proportionate amount to support re-use of brownfield land where vacant building being reused or redeveloped.

Making Effective Use of Land

The much-discussed new chapter ‘Making Effective Use of Land’ is also consistent with the aims of Green Belt’s protection and housing increase. The chapter aims at ensuring that right development takes place at the most suitable locations. Higher density (upward extensions) will be supported especially in town centres and around transport hubs while retail and employment land could be used for housing in areas of high housing demand. More effective use of under-utilised land and buildings is also the focus of the chapter allowing the conversion of space above shops, building on car parks, service yards etc. and using the airspace above existing residential and commercial buildings for new homes. Development of airspace is the most radical proposed change and it will be interesting to see how this develops. 

Developers’ Contributions

The Government aims to accelerate development by reforming Section 106 and Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) and by introducing a Strategic Infrastructure Tariff. Section 106 pooling restrictions will be lifted, CIL charging schedules will be based on existing use of land while the Strategic Infrastructure Tariff aims to ‘fund or mitigate infrastructure, ensuring existing and new communities can benefit’.  

Town Centres

The draft NPPF includes proposals for retail uses in out-of-centre locations to be considered only if town centre sites are not available or expected to be forthcoming within the plan period. The impact test for office development outside town centres is proposed to be removed. 

The consultation closes on 10th May and as the final document is expected before the summer 2018, many current projects, applications and appeals may be affected.

WEA Planning are here to help with any of your questions regarding the consultation and its progress. 


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