15 Mar 2018

#10ThingsSH you need to know about the draft NPPF reforms

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The Government recently released a long-awaited consultation draft to proposed National Planning and Policy Framework (the “NPPF”) policy reforms, along with other draft policy documents such as the 'Housing Delivery Test Draft Measurement Rule Book', and 'Supporting Housing Through Developer Contributions'.  The proposals bring forward policies previously announced in the Housing White Paper, the Autumn Budget, and 'Planning For Homes in the right places', and so unsurprisingly, are largely focused on housing.  The consultation runs until 10 May, 2018 and to get you started, here are ten things you need to know about the draft NPPF consultation policies:

  1. The policies are an attempt to improve housing delivery
    On the back of 2017’s Housing White Paper, the Government is increasing pressure on local authorities to deliver housing, with a new draft Housing Delivery Test published alongside the draft NPPF policies.  Some of the proposed reforms include having the presumption of sustainable development apply when housing delivery falls below 75% of the target set under the new Housing Delivery Test, and a requirement that plans must be aspirational, but also deliverable.  The proposals set a high standard for local authorities to meet, which will hopefully facilitate the approval of new developments.

  2. …and the Government would prefer that this housing (and other development) be built upwards, not outwards
    The draft policies push for intensification and more efficient use of land. They discourage low density housing in high demand areas, and are furthering the Government’s commitment to making use of brownfield land in built-up areas.

  3. Neighbourhood plans are being strengthened
    A new policy has been proposed which builds upon Gavin Barwell’s written ministerial statement protecting housing policies in neighbourhood plans if there is a 3 year supply of housing. Another policy would enable neighbourhood plans to amend Green Belt boundaries if a need for boundary amendment is demonstrated. This reinforces the increasing role that neighbourhood plans (and the public) will have in the planning process going forward. 

  4. The focus is for local plans to become more strategic
    There is a new proposed framework for plan making which defines strategic priorities for local authorities to assist them in creating their plans. The new draft policies also amend the test for 'soundness' of a local plan, tightening the evidence required to support a plan and setting out a requirement that 'an' appropriate strategy is adopted rather than 'the most' appropriate strategy. 5 year reviews of plans have been proposed to enable local authorities to update their long-term strategies and adapt them to changing circumstances. 

  5. The presumption in favour of sustainable development has been re-worded for greater clarity
    The changes make clear that 'Objectively Assessed Need' should be a minimum target, and that local authorities should account in their strategic plans for housing needs which cannot be met in neighbouring areas. In terms of decision-taking, the presumption in favour of sustainable development now speaks to approving development unless NPPF policies protecting specific assets or areas provide ‘clear reasons for refusing development’ in contrast to the previous wording which merely referred to policies ‘restricting development’. The reason for these changes is to clarify aspects of the presumption which have been the subject of litigation in the past. 

  6. The policies reflect a commitment to environmental protection in the planning system
    Between proposed policies to encourage greater protection of Ancient Woodland, and those relating to renewable energy and mitigation against climate change, the Government is giving direction that local authorities need to support its environmental efforts through the planning system, where possible. The proposed environmental policies are complemented by the renewed commitment to Green Belt protection. 

  7. The policies attempt to create greater certainty on developer contributions
    Local plans will be expected to be clearer about expected developer contributions, while policies to encourage conversations about infrastructure and other contributions early in the application process would provide greater clarity for both developers and local authorities, and hopefully increase deliverability. 

  8. Affordable Housing policies are to be clearer
    In addition to other contributions, the draft policies have also proposed a minimum 10% affordable housing on all major developments.  Local plans will also have to specify the specific types of affordable housing required in the area, and there is an expectation that affordable housing contributions be met onsite. The policies build in certain exceptions and allow for a reduction in the required affordable housing contribution when vacant buildings are being redeveloped.  

  9. Viability is being re-thought
    Based on 'Planning for the right homes in the right places', a new policy is proposed wherein no viability assessment would be required for developments which comply with relevant local plan policies. The intent here appears to be to reduce the time spent on negotiations over contributions and to streamline the approval process. A new standardised approach to viability was proposed in the 'Draft Planning Practice Guidance for Viability', which complements the NPPF amendments. The NPPF policies also indicate that viability assessments should be publicised. 

  10. The Government is seeking to increase clarity and transparency in the planning process
    An overall read of these proposed policies is that the Government is seeking to streamline and create greater certainty and clarity in the planning process. Clarity is, of course, beneficial to all parties in the planning process.  The question is whether these proposed amendments are enough to result in better housing delivery.  The draft NPPF consultation runs until 10 May, and it will be interesting to see what (if any) changes come out of it.
 

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