National Planning Policy Framework July 2018


Today (24th July 2018), the Government published the first revision of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) which, following widespread consultation, replaces the original NPPF introduced in 2012. 

In regards to on-going applications and appeals, the NPPF took immediate effect, therefore developers and planners need to be aware of the changes, as they will affect their schemes. However, for the purposes of examining local plans, the policies of the revised NPPF will apply to the plans that will be submitted after 24th January 2019 while for those submitted before this date, the previous policies will still apply. 

From November 2018, Local Planning Authorities will have to use the new Housing Delivery Test in order to drive up the numbers of homes delivered in each area. This is to replace the traditional test of how many homes are planned for and shifts from planning to delivery. Councils that under-deliver for a period of over three years will be penalised. 

According to the RTPI, the new NPPF will put planners under ‘significant pressure’. RTPI president John Acres states:

“It is imperative that chief executives, council leaders and politicians resource planning departments sufficiently, particularly as they will now be held more accountable for delivery under the housing delivery test and are expected to carry out more regular reviews of their plans”.  

“The RTPI welcomes the Government’s efforts to tighten definitions and processes in the NPPF, as the presumption in favour of sustainable development, and are pleased to see a stronger emphasis on place making, design and digital technology, and renewed recognition of the role of planning in creating healthy and safe communities”.

Summary changes

This is a summary of the main changes introduced by the revised NPPF:

Housing need

One of the key components of the changes announced is the assessment of local housing need using a standard method - set out in three pages - but this will be reviewed again in autumn. In September, the Government is also expected to publish the new household projections which are expected to be reduced with the national figure falling to 220,000 homes. However, the Government wants to ensure that 300,000 homes – current target – are built per year by the mid-2020s. 

The standard method became a topic of much debate, while it may be beneficial overall, its mathematical nature will achieve a top down growth figure for England but without responding to specific local challenges that the Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) may face. 

As stated in Pegasus’s NPPF analysis report: 

“It will be for other organisations, including the housebuilding industry, to bring such issues and evidence to the table and as such developers should be prepared to invest in the process at an early stage to influence the future growth strategy for the area.” 

Achieving Sustainable Development

While the achievement of sustainable development remains at the heart of NPPF, the addition of footnote 7 clarifies policies should be considered out of date where the 5 year supply land for housing cannot be demonstrated and where the housing delivery test has not been met.

Plan Making

Paragraph 33 makes it clear that policies should be reviewed to assess whether they need updating at least once every 5 years.  The review, however, may be required earlier than the 5 years period “if local housing need is expected to change significantly in the near future”. 

Reference to viability assessment at paragraph 34 is deleted but details such as contributions (including affordable housing) will be dealt through the expected planning guidance. 

Decision Making

In accordance with what was introduced in the draft NPPF, the emphasis was set out in the pre-application engagement but without being mandatory.

Paragraph 44 refers to “voluntary” Planning Performance Agreements which are likely to be needed for particularly complex applications. Regarding viability and policy compliance, the Government’s approach is set out in paragraph 57 but with the details expected to be included in the planning guidance. 

Delivering a sufficient supply of homes

While the requirement of 10% of homes to be available for affordable home ownership is retained, paragraph 68 introduces a new requirement of 10% of the LPA housing to be allocated on sites no larger than one hectare, highlighting the Government’s interest in small plots. 

Worth noticing also is the new policy at paragraph 71 which requires the LPAs to support the delivery of exception sites for entry level housing for first time buyers or renters with footnote 34 specifically ruling out such schemes on land in National Parks, AONBS or Green Belt. 

Building a strong, competitive economy

Paragraph 80 puts significant weight into supporting economic growth taking into account local business needs and wider opportunities for development. 

Ensuring the vitality of town centres

The sequential approach to town centres is maintained at paragraph 85 as LPAs are required to define a hierarchy of centres and the definition of “main town centres” remains unchanged. 

It must also be highlighted that the importance that residential development can play in enhancing vitality and viability of the centres is acknowledged in the new NPPF. It is hoped that LPAs will apply the same flexibility by promoting a variety of uses for the centres. 

Making effective use of land

The use of brownfield sites should be maximised but the definition remains the same – excluding residential gardens. 

However, according to para 122(d) LPAs can consider if it desirable to maintain the prevailing character and setting of an area – including the contribution of residential gardens - or whether change and regeneration in the area is more desirable. As such, intensification of urban land may be expected, even on residential gardens, if the LPAs endorse such policies. Minimum density standards will also be set for town centres and other well-connected locations.

Although the expected intensification is positive, “Brexit is unlikely to make brownfield regeneration any easier for certain areas of the UK following the withdrawal of European funding unless it is replaced by Central Government” according to Pegasus. 

Achieving well-designed places

The Government’s emphasis on design is clearly stated at paragraph 124: “Good design is a key aspect of sustainable development”while the need for the establishment of appropriate densities is another topic highlighted. 

Green Belt

Regarding the approach for Green Belt, no significant changes as the strict treatment of boundaries is retained. No imagination here. 

Conserving and enhancing the historic environment

Similarly, little has changed for the heritage environment with the most important difference being the insertion of new paragraph 187 which requires LPAs to give access to a historic environment record which should contain up-to-date evidence about the historic environment of the borough. 

MHCLG also published the ‘Government’s new planning rulebook to deliver more quality, well-designed homes - a short written ministerial statement entitled ‘Housing policy’, ‘Housing Delivery Test Measurement Rule Book’. In a busy period, there was also a call for evidence in relation to the Independent Review of Planning Appeal Inquiries chaired by Bridget Rosewell. The updated national practice guidance is also expected to be published shortly.  

Article prepared by Michaela Kekeri. 


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