The NPPF’s full impact is not being grasped, says Government advisor
It is becoming more apparently clear that producing a New Local Plan is maybe more of a difficult under-taking than what we are being lead to believe. Castle Point Borough Council are working towards a tight schedule under pressure to appease the majority group Mainland Councillors. The mindset, emminating from their ability to have brought down the Core Strategy process, gives hope that Green Belt land must, and will be protected at all costs. As I have previously suggested, this may be at the expense of re-drawn Green Belt boundaries, the penny has not yet dropped within our Mainland neighbours as to this possibility.
John Rhodes, one of the Government’s advisers on the framework. stated on the 20th April: “Local planning authorities have not grasped the extent of change that the Government’s National Planning Policy Framework intends to achieve. Planning authorities should only be able to secure the statutory force of an up-to-date local plan if their plans are positively prepared, making “every effort” to meet their area’s objectively-identified development needs, said Rhodes.
“How many plans in the South East have genuinely been prepared on that basis?” he said in a letter to Planning magazine.
The Government’s planning policy reform came into force last month with the publication of the NPPF (72-page / 1.3MB PDF), which is designed to simplify the planning system and reduce over a thousand pages of policy to around 50 pages.
The policy contains a “presumption in favour of sustainable development”, which states that permission should be granted “where the development plan is absent, silent or relevant policies are out‑of‑date”.
In the absence of an up-to-date local plan that conforms with the NPPF, the focus should be on the test in paragraph 14, which says that planning permission should be granted unless the adverse impacts of doing so would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits, when assessed against the NPPF as a whole, said Rhodes, who is a director at QUOD planning.
“It is not appropriate, therefore, to select one element of the NPPF, for example in relation to design, as a sufficient basis for refusing planning permission,” said Rhodes. “Instead, it must be clear that the impacts outweigh all of the benefits, to which significant weight must be attached.”
Rhodes said in the letter that he found it “surprising” to see planning authorities asserting that the NPPF may make no difference to their local plan.
“The NPPF is clear that plans will not be found sound unless they are fully informed by the presumption in favour of sustainable development,” he said.
Councils must start from the proposition that the full, objectively assessed needs for things such as retail, housing and employment development are met unless it can be demonstrated that the harm of doing so significantly outweighs the benefits, said Rhodes.
Planning law expert Richard Ford of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said: “One of the most immediate impacts of the NPPF has been recalculation of five year housing supply figures by a host of local authorities who were previously chomping at the bit to count windfalls within the first five years and now they can do so as a result of the NPPF, albeit on the basis of local evidence. I think in the short term the implications of that will cause some delay to housing development, whilst the “tilting” of the planning balance towards granting permission will take time for local planning authorities to adjust to.”