Whilst the Government refines its proposals for planning reform, which will need to be reconciled with increasing disquiet in the Conservative Party at large, it has released another version of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). This is the fourth iteration of central Government planning policy since the first NPPF in 2012, but like the version it replaces (released in February 2019), the changes are relatively discrete and the fundamentals of national policy (such as the presumption in favour of sustainable development, and matters relating to the Green Belt) remain very much in place. 

The changes are broadly consistent with those proposed in a consultation carried out earlier in the year (see previous Rapleys newsletter), and the main areas can be summarised thus:

  •  A greater focus on design, and particularly “beauty” in development, in line with the Government’s “build beautiful” initiatives;
  • A general encouragement of trees, and more specifically seeking to ensure that all new streets are tree-lined;
  • A longer life for strategic policies is sought, where new settlements or significant extensions to existing settlements are proposed;
  • A strengthening of policy relative to Article 4 directions, to underline the Government’s discouragement of restrictions to permitted development rights (PDR);
  • An encouragement towards faster delivery of public service infrastructure;
  • A requirement that local planning authorities have regard to the importance of retaining historic statues, and explain their historic and social context in preference to their removal, and
  • The addition of an Annex 3, formalising land use vulnerability classification (in the context of flood risk) into policy.

In this regard, it would appear that the new NPPF is intended to represent somewhat of a “holding position”, including putting a little more meat on the bones of what the Government has been saying over the last 6 to 12 months, in advance of more wide-ranging initiatives later in the year. In this context, the Government has already indicated that a fuller review of the NPPF will be undertaken to promote the Government’s commitment to achieving net zero emissions by 2050.

If you would like to discuss these changes, the Government’s wider planning reform agenda, and the implications they might have on your portfolio, please get in touch with one of our nationwide Town Planning team.